(Originally published, September 6th,1998 in The Redwood Reporter by Rod Sager)
When the record falls, Roger Maris will likely slip from the minds of many baseball fans. But Babe Ruth was bigger than his records, larger than his accomplishments, he was and is a legend. A legend of his own making. The Babe lived life to the extremities that few of us will (or should) ever live.
When Hank Aaron broke the the All Time Record for home runs, he solidified his place in baseball’s record books. But Ruth is still considered the King of the Power Hitters. He is and perhaps always will be, the man that all others are judged by. It is his performance that is the benchmark.
Ruth’s legend is largely due to his extravagant lifestyle and his willingness to engage the media. He loved the spotlight and grabbed it every chance he could. This is how legends are made. Ruth and Ali are two athletes who created a lore for themselves by engaging the media and living large. They are the two biggest sports figures of the 20th century. They seem to define the twentieth century.
Bambino was also a compassionate man and endeared himself to children. He was generous beyond any expectation. he always took time to hang with the new “keed”.
When this record falls, Babe Ruth will still have many more to his credit. Records that stand the test of time are always more legendary than those that are broken again and again. Roger Bannister’s four minute mile is one notable exception. That record is still famous today today despite the fact that it was broken 90 days later and has been improved upon scores of times. But Bannister did the “impossible”. So did Ruth.
With the emergence of Ruth, baseball became mainstream America. Babe Ruth’s influence on the game of baseball is more profound than any other. Ruth was a hero. Although he was a very human hero, a man who drank heavily, took little care of his body and lived a life that many considered excessively sinful. Well, vices aside The babe remains a hero, a legend, a shining star and the man to beat for eternity.
It has been fifty years since he died and seventy since the roaring twenties when he terrorized pitchers. Yet after all that has transpired since, his immortal spirit of the game refuses to die. Not World War Two, not The Cold War, not computers, not the Moon, not anything can extinguish the flame that is the legend of Babe Ruth.