When the good citizens of Boston awoke on Friday morning January 6, 1920, this is the news which greeted them. The rumor mill which had been churning for a couple of weeks had become reality. George Herman “Babe” Ruth, was on his way to New York to become, “The Sultan of Swat”!
But before he was “The Sultan” he was known as “The Colossus”, The Burly Batterer”, “The Caveman” and “The Mauler”. All this because of his adroitness with the bat in his hands, and he did it all while he was the best left-handed pitcher in baseball, and while calling Fenway Park his home in the uniform of the Boston Red Sox!
The heights achieved by Babe Ruth in the game of baseball are unprecedented! The best evidence to that fact is Barry Bonds. What you saw Bonds do, for a few seasons, when he was all roided up is what Babe did, for more than a decade, on hot dogs and beer! Then throw in the fact that while he was astounding the world with his bat, he was establishing himself as the best left-handed pitcher in the game.
And yet as well as he pitched, what people talked about, what writers wrote about, was his bat. Nobody had ever seen balls hit so far, nobody had ever seen balls hit so high, nobody had ever seen the likes of Babe Ruth with a bat in his hands!
Babe hit only 49 of his 714 home runs in a Red Sox uniform, but the fact is that before he left the Red Sox, he had hit the longest home run in every American League park (including Fenway) and he had already set the single season home run record with 29 in 1919! Not to mention, he also led the American League in home runs in 1918 while playing only 92 games in the field! Oh, and he was so valuable as a pitcher, that manager Ed Barrow inserted him back in the pitching rotation for the stretch run of the abbreviated 1918 season.
All he did was go 7-2 down the stretch and 2-0 in the World Series to lead the Red Sox to the championship over the Cubs! It was during that World Series that he set the record of 29 2/3 consecutive scoreless World Series innings pitched! He held this record until Whitey Ford broke it in the 1961 World Series.
Babe Ruth still holds the following Red Sox records for a left-handed pitcher: games started, 41 in 1916, complete games, 35 in 1917, and he shares the American League record for shutouts by a lefty (with Ron Guidry) 9 in 1916. He still holds the record for the longest complete game victory in World Series history, a 14 inning 2-1 win in game two of the 1916 Fall Classic against Brooklyn. He is the only Red Sox lefty to have back to back 20 win seasons, 23 in 1916, 24 in 1917 and until Jon Lester passed him in 2011, he had the highest winning percentage (with 100 or more decisions) of any Red Sox southpaw in their history.
L to R, Rube Foster, Carl Mays, Ernie Shore, Babe and Dutch Leonard.
When Babe retired following the 1935 season, he held 54 major league records, the one of which he was the most proud was his consecutive inning scoreless World Series pitching streak.
And so it was on this day in Fenway Park history, January 6, 1920.