THE BOOK ON BABE : 1974 Biography, Like Its Subject, Compiles Some Impressive Statistics
In “Babe,” his excellent 1974 biography of Babe Ruth, Robert W. Creamer wrote in clear perspective of the salaries Ruth was making in the 1920s and ‘30s. They were as impressive as his mounting home-run totals.
His highest Yankee salary was $80,000 a year, for 1930 and ’31. On the great Yankee team of 1927, Ruth made $70,000. The next-highest paid player on the ’27 team, according to Creamer, was pitcher Herb Pennock, at $17,500. Lou Gehrig made $8,000. Pitcher Wilcy Moore, who won 19 games, earned $3,000.
When he signed his two-year contract for $80,000 in 1930, he was asked at the news conference about the propriety of a baseball player making more than the President of the United States.
“Why not?” Ruth retorted. “I had a better year than Hoover did.”
In 1922, he held out for $52,000 a year. Why $52,000?
“Because there’s 52 weeks in a year and I always wanted to make a grand a week,” he said.
He got $52,000, in a year when Frank (Home Run) Baker, an established star and fellow Yankee, made $16,000, the second-highest salary on the club. Yankee catcher Wally Schang, one of the best catchers in baseball, made $10,000. Three-time 20-game winner Bob Shawkey made $8,500.
Some other pearls from Creamer’s book:
--From 1926 through 1931, Ruth averaged 50.3 home runs a season.
--When Ruth hit his 700th homer in 1934, only two other players had ever hit 300. When he retired, his 714 total was more than twice as many as the runnerup.
--Thanks to Ruth’s great season, the 1920 Yankees were the first to draw a million fans in a season, at the Polo Grounds. Attendance was 1,289,422. The Yankees broke the previous record by 380,000. In 1923, they moved into new Yankee Stadium.
--In 1920, when Ruth broke his own one-season homer record of 29, he hit his 30th on July 15. It was his 138th homer, making him, at 26, the all-time leader.
--In 1919, when Ruth was still pitching for the Boston Red Sox, the Yankees led the American League with 45 home runs. But that was only 16 more than Ruth hit.
--In 1923, when Ruth hit 41 home runs and batted .393, he walked 170 times. More than half of those walks were intentional, and in one game he was walked intentionally with the bases loaded.
--In 1921, with 204 hits and 144 walks in 540 at-bats, Ruth figured to have a 64% chance to reach base every time he came to the plate.
--Babe Ruth led the league in exuberance, too. In the Yankee locker room after he had hit his 60th home run in 1927, he shouted: “Sixty, count ‘em, sixty! Let’s see some other son of a bitch match that!”