Rowdy Ruth – How a bad temper killed a great thing for Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth, also known as “the Bambino” or “the Sultan of Swat,” had an illustrious career as a starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. In 1914, Ruth appeared in five games and pitched in four of them, and in 1915 he won 18 games and lost eight, hitting peripherally .315. In 1916 he was 23-12 at the end of the season, with a 1.75 ERA and nine shutouts (both league-leading stats). The pinnacle of his pitching career came in the 1916 season, in which Ruth posted nine shutouts and set a record for left-handers that stood until 1978. 1917 saw a 24-13 record, 2.01 ERA, and a total of . six Bambino shutouts, as well as a .325 batting average (a stat that had been rising steadily since the start of the legend’s career).

Already, in his third substantive season in Major League Baseball, Babe Ruth had achieved statistics that were certainly not insignificant. Unfortunately for the Red Sox, 1917 was also the year of the tantrum that contributed to the decision to trade one of the greatest baseball players of all time. On June 23, Ruth was pitching against the Washington Senators and walked the leadoff hitter, causing such a reaction from Ruth that he was ejected from the game. In response, Ruth punched the referee and was suspended for ten games, charged $100 (a hefty sum at the time), and forced to publicly apologize.

The rest of the story is familiar to any passing baseball fan. In late 1919, after beginning the change from an amazing pitcher to an unbelievably fantastic hitter, Ruth was sold to the New York Yankees. The decision was based on Ruth’s demand for a massive raise that was not financially infeasible for the Red Sox, but rather contributed to the overall problem with Ruth’s behavior. After owner Harry Frazee turned him over to the Yankees, Ruth quickly emerged as an unstoppable slugger, and the Red Sox went without a World Series win for 86 years.

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