On September 30, 1927, Babe Ruth hits his 60th home run of the 1927 season and with it sets a record that would stand for 34 years.
George Herman Ruth was born February 6, 1895, in Baltimore, Maryland. He was the first of eight children, but only he and a sister survived infancy. Ruth’s father was a saloon keeper on Baltimore’s waterfront, and the young George, known as “Gig” (pronounced with soft g’s) to his family, was known as a troublemaker from an early age. At seven, his truancy from school led his parents to declare him incorrigible, and he was sent to an orphanage, St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys. Ruth lived there until he was 19 in 1914, when he was signed as a pitcher by the Baltimore Orioles.
That same summer, Ruth’s contract was sold by the Orioles to the Boston Red Sox. His new teammates called him “Babe,” short for baby, for his naiveté, but his talent was already maturing, and he was almost immediately recognized as the best pitcher on one of the great teams of the 1910s. He set a record between 1916 and 1918 with 29 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings in World Series play, including a 14-inning game in 1916 in which he pitched every inning, giving up only a run in the first.
To the great dismay of Boston fans, Ruth’s contract was sold by the Red Sox to the New York Yankees before the 1920 season by Red Sox owner Harry Frazee, so that Frazee could finance the musical No, No, Nanette. Ruth switched to the outfield with the Yankees, and hit more home runs than the entire Red Sox team in 10 of the next 12 seasons. “The Sultan of Swat” or “The Bambino,” as he was alternately known, was the greatest gate attraction in baseball through the 1920s until his retirement as a player in 1935.
The 1927 season featured a fearsome Yankees lineup of power hitters known as “Murderer’s Row” that included Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Tony Lazzerri and Bob Meusel. Ruth led the American League in home runs throughout the year, but did not appear to be within reach of his record 59 home runs, set in 1921, until he hit 16 in the month of September, tying his record on September 29. On September 30, in the last game of the season, Ruth came to the plate against lefty Tom Zachary of the Washington Senators in the eighth inning. With the count at 2-1, Ruth launched a Zachary pitch high into the right-field bleachers, and then took a slow stroll around the bases as the crowd celebrated by tearing paper into confetti and throwing hats into the air. Upon assuming his position in right-field for the ninth inning, those seated in the bleachers waved hankies at the famed slugger; Ruth responded with multiple military salutes.
During Ruth’s career with the New York Yankees, the team won four World Series and seven American League pennants. After getting rid of Ruth, the Red Sox did not win a World Series until 2004, an 85-year drought known to Red Sox fans as “the Curse of the Bambino.”
Ruth died of throat cancer on August 16, 1948. His record for career home runs was not broken until Hank Aaron hit his 715th home run on April 8, 1974, 39 years later.