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U.S. Census Bureau History: Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth in Yankees uniform
Although Babe Ruth may be best known as a
"slugger" for the New York Yankees, his baseball
career began in 1914 as a pitcher for the
Baltimore Orioles (then a minor league team)
and the Boston Red Sox.

May 6 marks the 100th anniversary of baseball legend Babe Ruth's first major league home run. The 20-year-old Ruth—a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox—hit his first "dinger" against New York Yankees pitcher Jack Warhop at the Polo Grounds on May 6, 1915. Despite Ruth's first "round-tripper" and a .833 slugging percentage for the game, the Red Sox lost 4-3 in 13 innings.

During a major league baseball career that spanned from July 11, 1914, to May 30, 1935, Babe Ruth hit the "long ball" 714 times. The 60 "taters" he hit during the 1927 season would not be beaten until Roger Maris hit his 61st "four-bagger" on October 1, 1961. Even today, only two players—Barry Bonds and Hank Aaron—have more career "moon shots."

The census can be used for more than just understanding population and economic growth. The following are a few examples of how census data and records can be used to tell stories about our nation's history and "America's Pastime."

  • Babe Ruth is most often associated with three major league cities—Baltimore, MD; Boston, MA; and New York, NY. Ruth was born in Baltimore on February 6, 1895, and signed his first baseball contract to play for the then minor league Baltimore Orioles in 1914. He was traded to the Boston Red Sox in July 1914, playing with the team through the 1919 season. On December 26, 1919, his contract was sold to the New York Yankees with whom he played through 1934. Traded on February 26, 1935, Ruth ended his career with the Boston Braves on June 2, 1935.
  • At the start of Ruth's career in 1914, 8 of the nation's 10 largest cities were represented by at least one major league baseball team. In 2010, 9 of the 10 largest cities were home to major league teams, and the 10th city—San Jose, CA—is home to the San Jose Giants, a minor league affiliate of the San Francisco Giants.
  • Babe Ruth anchored the 1927 New York Yankees' "Murderers' Row," so called because of the devastating statistics posted by the first six hitters in the team's lineup—Earle Combs, Mark Koenig, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Bob Meusel, and Tony Lazzeri. The Yankees would sweep the Pittsburgh Pirates in the 1927 World Series, ending the season with a record of 110-44. Although more games have been added to the baseball season, only four teams have won more regular season games than the 1927 Yankees—the 1906 Chicago Cubs and 2001 Seattle Mariners with 116, the 1998 Yankees with 114, and the 1954 Cleveland Indians with 111.
  • One of the greatest legends surrounding Babe Ruth is his "called shot" during game three of the 1932 World Series. Some observers argued that Ruth was taunting players on the Chicago Cubs bench or pitcher Charlie Root. Others insist he pointed toward Wrigley Field's center field fence. The "called shot" will likely be forever debated, but it is a fact that Ruth hit Root's third pitch out of the park. The Yankees went on to win the game 7-5, and the 1932 World Series after beating the Cubs in game four the following day.
  • Babe Ruth ended his baseball career in 1935 playing for the Boston Braves. The Boston Braves moved to Milwaukee, WI, in 1953, and Atlanta, GA, in 1966. In addition to Ruth, many baseball all-stars have worn the Braves uniform, including Hank Aaron, Rogers Hornsby, Phil Niekro, Warren Spahn, Casey Stengel, and Cy Young.
  • Babe Ruth's lifetime statistics included 714 home runs; 2,873 hits; 506 doubles; 2,174 runs; 2,213 RBI; a .342 batting average; a .474 on-base percentage; and a .690 slugging percentage. In 1936, Ruth, Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, Christy Mathewson, and Walter Johnson became the first five players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY.

Babe Ruth in Red Sox uniform

Babe Ruth hit his first major league home run on May 6, 1915, while playing as a pitcher
for the Boston Red Sox. In this photo, taken between 1915 and 1917, Ruth (far left) sits in
front of the dugout with teammates (from left to right), Ernest G. "Ernie" Shore, George
"Rube" Foster
, and Dellos "Del" Gainer.

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Historic census records from 1790 to 1940 are maintained by the National Archives and Records Administration, not the U.S. Census Bureau.

Visit the National Archives Web site to access 1940 Census records

Online subscription services are available to access the 1790–1940 census records. Contact your local library to inquire if it has subscribed to one of these services.

Did You Know?

Each year, the Rawlings factory in Costa Rica produces approximately 2.4 million official major league baseballs. Major League Baseball Rule 3.01c requires that the white cowhide baseball be rubbed with mud before each game. This mud has come from a single secret location near Palmyra, NJ, for more than 40 years.

Vice President Bush throws first pitch

Today, most sports equipment is produced outside the United States. Notable exceptions include the official ball used by the National Football League, manufactured at Wilson's Ada, OH, factory since 1955, and the "Louisville Slugger" baseball bat produced in Louisville, KY, since the 1890s.

Tips for Genealogists

Interested in the 1790 to 1940 census records of legendary baseball players or learning how other notable Americans responded when the enumerator visited? Check out our Famous and Infamous Census Records page!

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Census History Staff | Last Revised: April 28, 2015