Babe Ruth & Legacies

Babe Ruth

.342 lifetime average, .690 career slugging, 1.164 career OPS, 714 home runs, 2873 hits, 2213 RBIs, 2x All-Star, 7 World Series championships (3 with the Red Sox, oddly enough), led AL in home runs 12 times, MLB’s All-Century and All-Time Teams, inducted into Cooperstown in 1936 with 95% of the votes…

There is so much to be said for George Herman Ruth Jr., affectionately referred to as “Babe”. Every time I look out across center field toward Monument Park, or even upon exiting the Great Hall meandering along Babe Ruth Plaza just outside the main gates of the Stadium, I find myself a bit sentimental about a man who is always on the Top 10 list of baseball greats. Of course, he’s favored with the Yankees and the cause of the Red Sox/Yankees rivalry, and I know he wasn’t the kind of person one might want to influence your children with his questionable moral character. Perhaps he was fortunate to be born in the days without Twitter and 24/7 news channels and paparazzi, or we might have a less-than-sentimental remembrance of his legacy.

I think for a moment that just maybe those were simpler times for the game. But I am quickly reminded that, much like today, people were willing to compromise and cheat all for a title or award or a legacy they prayed would never be tainted if they ever got caught. And yet, so many of them did. The obvious one from that era is of course the 1919 World Series and the infamous “Black Sox Scandal“.

We like to remember our heroes past with a squeaky clean immortality, but we forget that they, like us, are still flawed humans. But like someone once said, it’s not if you fall, it’s how you get up. We as a society love genuine redemption stories — fallen heroes who face their failures and rise to overcome them — Gladiator, The Shawshank Redemption, The Lord of the Rings, Spider-Man (2002), It’s a Wonderful Life, Groundhog Day, Pirates of the Caribbean (2003), and Finding Nemo, to name a few. We honor these flawed characters as heroes, not because they failed, but because they didn’t let their mistakes become who they were. Instead, they became the people (or fish or hobbits) that they should have been all along and probably dreamed about being as a kid. Rising above regret, shame, and guilt, our heroes created a niche in our hearts because of who they became by the end of the movie, not because of where they started out.

So then in honor of Babe Ruth’s 118th birthday, and in light of recent stories of a shadier nature, I ask that today we remember the good men of the sport, whose legacies we will celebrate with our children, whether redeemed part way through or clean throughout. It’s not about how you start or how many times you mess up on the way, it’s about how you finish. So finish strong…

Go Yankees!

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