3 Days – Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth

He wore No. 3 for only seven seasons, but boy did he wear it big.

Babe Ruth already had hit 470 of his 714 home runs by Opening Day in 1929, when the Yankees and Indians became the first Major League Baseball clubs to regularly wear jersey numbers on their backs. (Go back to our 8 Days post for more on that history.) Just as Opening Day is where you begin any regular season, it also is where you begin any discussion of The Bambino as a player, so we are going to focus on his annual beginnings as we tick down to a new MLB season in only three days at Sydney.

Cumulative Opening Day stats:
Pitching: 3-0, 1.71 ERA, 26 1/3 IP, 5 ER, 5 BB, 10 K
Batting: 25 for 60 (.417), 22 R, 22 RBI, 7 HR, 6 BB, 5 2B, 1 3B

His teams were 15-3 when he played on Opening Day.

Just stop and appreciate the following numbers. It all begins with three consecutive victories as a pitcher, just two outs away from what would have been three straight complete games. The following photo was taken of Ruth during the same season of his 1918 opening gem. The fourth Opening Day, he plays in the field and opens with a bang on the road against the club that would take him away the next offseason.

Babe Ruth in 1918

1916: 8.1 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 6 K (2-1 win vs. PHI) | 0 for 2 at the plate
1917: 9 IP, 3 H, 3 ER, 3 BB, 1 K (10-3 win at NYY) | 1 for 4, R
1918: 9 IP, 4 H, 1 ER, 2 BB, 3 K (7-1 win vs. PHI) | 1 for 3, 2 RBI
1919: 2 for 4, 2 R, 3 RBI, HR (10-0 win at NYY)

1920: 2 for 4 (3-1 loss at PHI)
1921: 5 for 5, R, 2 RBI, 2 2B (6-3 win at WAS)
1922: DNP
1923: 1 for 2, R, 3 RBI, HR (4-1 win vs. BOS)
1924: 1 for 3, R, BB (2-1 win at BOS)
1925: DNP
1926: 3 for 6, 3 R, 2 RBI, 2 2B (12-11 win at BOS)
1927: 0 for 3 (8-3 win vs. PHI)
1928: 1 for 3, 3 R, 2 BB, 3B (8-3 win at PHI)
1929: 1 for 2, 2 R, 1 RBI, HR (7-3 win vs. BOS)
1930: 1 for 4, R, 2B (6-2 loss at PHI)
1931: 2 for 3, R, RBI, BB, HR (6-3 win vs. BOS)
1932: 3 for 5, 2 R, 5 RBI, 2 HR (12-6 win at PHI)
1933: 1 for 4, R (4-3 win vs. BOS)
1934: 0 for 3, R, 2 BB (6-5 loss at PHI)

1935: 2 for 4, 2 R, 3 RBI, HR (4-2 win vs. NYG)

Yes, even in Ruth’s final Opening Day, he knocked one out and scored twice in a win. He was magical on Opening Day.

Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis suspended Ruth for the first six weeks of the 1922 season after he participated in a barnstorming tour following the World Series. Then there was “The Bellyache Heard ‘Round The World” in 1925, causing Ruth to miss the start of the season after an offseason of excess and surgery for an “intestinal abscess.” Given his spectacular Opening Day stats, one wishes in hindsight that Ruth could have made those two starts just to see what they would have done to his total.

As hard as it is to single out any particular Opening Day for someone who did so much damage and led his team to so many victories on that occasion, the one celebrated most often in Ruth lore came in 1923. It was the opening of a new Yankee Stadium. On April 18, a warm day in New York, we are told that Ruth and the Yankees drew an announced crowd of 74,217 for their opener against the Red Sox. Babe RuthIt is said that another 25,000 were turned away, with reports of scalping arrests. New York Gov. Al Smith threw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Howard Ehmke started on the hill for Boston, and he surrendered a three-run homer to Ruth in the third inning. It was the first homer in what would become known as The House That Ruth Built. The Yankees won that opener, 4-1.

As a side note, Ruth and Ehmke would face off numerous times, each having their moments, so let’s give the highly competitive Ehmke his due in this discussion of the slugger. Ehmke went on to win 20 games for Boston that season and 19 the next in a 15-year career. It was Ehmke who also would allow Ruth’s first homer of the 1927 season, four games into the schedule, and that would become the first of 60 in what most consider the greatest season by any team in MLB history. Ruth’s record would stand until the Yankees’ Roger Maris passed it with 61 in 1961.

Ruth’s final game was on May 30, 1935. The Yankees retired his No. 3 in 1948, the year he passed away.

Ruth was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1936 (Hall ceremony in 1939), and although Hank Aaron broke his career home run record in 1974 (see No. 44 in our countdown), Ruth’s career records include highest slugging percentage (.690), OPS (1.164) and OPS+ (206). Those are stats no one could foresee when a legend was being pounded out on Opening Days long ago.

Now another Opening Day approaches. For the 2014 Yankees, the season begins April 1 at Houston, and the home opener is April 7 against Baltimore, with a No. 3 plaque always out in Monument Park representing the tradition. MLB Schedule | Tickets

Who should be No. 2?


  1. Mark Newman

    Reblogged this on MLB.com Blogs Central and commented:

    You know everything there is to know about Babe Ruth. Except how he did in his career on Opening Day. See the unbelievable numbers and join me on the Opening Day Countdown Down Under blog as we honor The Bambino just three days away from the start of another Major League Baseball season.

  2. Pingback: MLB.com Pro Blogs of the Day « MLB.com Blogs Central
  3. Michael T. Mauro

    Actually Babe Ruth did not die from throat cancer. He had a rare form of cancer that had nothing to do with cigar smoking or anything else he has been so wrongfully misjudged of doing. There will never be another quite like him. Here’s a man who was a household word back in 1919, before the internet, television, (network radio was just dream in 1919), yet Babe Ruth was a national hero. In those days you couldn’t call cross town in New York or Boston. He must have done something right, huh? He saved the game singlehandedly so we fans can enjoy it today. No steroids enhanced his performance. His impact on the game was felt immediately at the box office. He revolutionized the game. He took it out of the hands of the gamblers who populated the stands of most all parks. Babe was a champion of racially integrating baseball at a time when the popular sentiment of the nation was heavily invested in segregation. Babe barnstormed against the Negro leagues when mist white men wouldn’t stand on he same ball field with a black man. h must have irked somebody when he said that the negro players were as good as the whites. Those ridiculous myths about him being a drunk are just that, myths perpetuated by writers who believed whatever drunken old timers whispered in their ears. Many old ball players like Waite Hoyt and Whitey Witt ball players remembered Babe as being punctual to the ball park and for doing ANYTHNG he could to put a smile on a child’s face (you can check it out at the Hall of Fame) . Did he have his rowdy youth and did he sew his oats? Yes, he did. But, how about the hundreds (maybe thousands) of unsolicited visits to orphanages, hospitals, churches and schools that went purposefully unreported by the press? Babe wanted it that way. And, imagine that he was in Japan for only eleven days in 1934 and he was seen by millions of Japanese baseball fans. He is still revered as a baseball god there. Babe Ruth opened the door for baseball to become an international sport. He must have done something right, huh? Babe spoke out against the persecution of Jews in Nazi Germany in December 1942. He did so as a prominent German American long before our government would even admit that it was happening. It was published all over the country. He loved his country and he raised nearly a million dollars for the war effort. He must have done something right, huh? His feats on he diamond are just the beginning of the story of this great American hero.

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