There are certainly gradations of greatness, and one of the most wonderful parts of baseball history is that we can so plausibly argue about this guy as the “greatest” at that thing, or this guy as the “greatest” at this thing.
In that spirit, I won’t tell you today – on his birthday – that Babe Ruth was the greatest player in the history of the game, and I won’t even tell you that he was the greatest hitter in the history of the game.
I will tell you, however, that Ruth hit an absurd .342/.474/.690 for his career, a line that even the best of the best would only dream of managing in their best season. His 197 wRC+ remains the best mark in baseball history, as does his 168.4 WAR.
Ruth may have made his most historic mark in the famous 1927 season, when his loaded Yankees paced the American League by 19.0 games, and went on to sweep the Pirates in the World Series. That was the year, of course, that Babe Ruth hit 60 home runs, setting a new record.
Here’s that 60th homer:
Ruth has such a “no big deal” swagger to him as he circles the bases and tips his cap to the crowd. Only as the cheers rise to a crescendo, soliciting a second tip of the cap, does he allow himself a big, happy smile. That’s a fun one to watch, especially knowing that this is a thing that happened 90 years ago.
After the game, Ruth reported said, “Sixty! Let’s see some son of a bitch try to top that one.” Roger Maris eventually did it 34 years later, but it’s worth noting that, although Maris hit a fantastic .269/.372/.620 in 1961, Ruth hit a Ruthian .356/.486/.772. And, naturally, that was only Ruth’s fifth or sixth best season. Yes, he was that good.
Don’t forget: before he was known for what he did with the bat, Babe Ruth was one of the best pitchers in baseball.