The Great Fall of The Great Bambino

The Babe, the Sultan of Swat, the Colossus of Clout, the GREAT BAMBINO! Everyone has heard of these nicknames. They are the names given to the greatest baseball player to ever play the sport of baseball. He will always be remembered as the person who changed the way baseball will be seen with what he was able to do with a bat and a ball in his hands.

Ruth pitching the ball while with the Red Sox | Wikimedia

Babe Ruth was always looked upon as being a great player when he first started playing in the Major Leagues for the Red Sox. Everyone knew who he was because of his giant frame and body. He was a dual-threat player who was a pitcher and also a hitter of the longball. But, he did not always bat, since he was a pitcher.1 So, he decided that he wanted to bat a lot more. He began playing outfielder in order to be able to show off his power at the plate more. But, there was a huge controversy when the Red Sox traded Ruth to their rivals, the Yankees, where he would shine the most for the rest of his career.2

Ruth was an avid drinker and smoker throughout his entire life, even smoking during his games.3  A couple of years after his retirement, Ruth began to experience some fatigue and was starting to be unable to even swallow anything. Ruth went to the doctor to have himself checked, but, Ruth did not want to know what was causing him to become sick, so they never told him. It turned out that Ruth had developed throat cancer.

The Babe touching home plate after hitting a home run | Wikimedia

Ruth’s doctor told him that he would need to start treatment right away. Ruth began chemotherapy and radiation treatment at the same time.4 As Ruth was starting to get better, the government banned one of the drugs that was helping Ruth fight the cancer. Once the drug was banned, it became extremely hard for Ruth to get better. Instead of being able to go back to his normal routine, his condition worsened and he lost up to one-hundred pounds. A few months before his death, Ruth would make his last visit to Yankee Stadium. He had lost so much weight that the people in the stadium hardly recognized him. It would be extremely sad for someone so recognizable and also being the greatest player to ever, to end up not being recognized by the fans who once adored him.5

Babe Ruth noticeably lost weight months before his death | Pinterest

Babe Ruth died on August 16, 1948. A service for him was held at Yankee Stadium for people to come pay their last respects. It is estimated that around 77,000 people lined up to pay respects. Then, for his funeral, around 75,000 people waited outside of the church for him to be brought outside.6 Just like the quote in the movie The Sandlot, “Heroes get remembered, Legends never die.” Ruth’s legacy will always be known for the rest of human life.

  1. Bob Considine, The Babe Ruth Story (New York: Signet, 1992), 47.
  2. Bob Considine, The Babe Ruth Story (New York: Signet, 1992), 60.
  3. “Babe Ruth,” Biography 5, no. 12 (December 2001): 61.
  4. David P. Steensma, “George Herman “Babe” Ruth Jr: baseball star and early participant in a cancer clinical trial,” Mayo Clinic Proceedings 83, no. 11 (Nov. 2008): 1262.
  5. Bob Considine, The Babe Ruth Story (New York: Signet, 1992), 128.
  6. Bob Considine, The Babe Ruth Story (New York: Signet, 1992), 186.

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This Post Has 54 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Like most people, I have learned about Babe Ruth in several of my classes throughout the years, but I never knew his whole story. I find it sad that people still abuse alcohol and smoke even though we have done research and clearly defined the possibly life-threatening outcomes that can result from these habits. I wish that people were more conscious of these kinds of decisions and put their well-being and health before what they think will give them pleasure in the moment.

  2. Avatar

    I am not a fan of baseball but everyone has heard of Babe Ruth. However, I never knew he died of cancer. This article gave a fresh perspective about facts like that which are not normally given when looking at the career and legacy of Babe Ruth. I loved the references to The Sandlot as well but from one movie lover to another your very first sentence in the introduction put a smile on my face.

  3. Avatar

    I knew who Babe Ruth was and that he was successful but I never knew any details about his life or career. I for sure had no idea he died of such violent cancer. I wonder if they had not banned the drug if he would have gotten better. It’s really sad to hear how much the cancer changed him and that he was unrecognizable. You can tell, still, that he was a huge influence on so many people as so many came to support him in his death

  4. Avatar

    Cancer has always been the silent killer. Though I can understand Ruth’s decision to live in ignorance from what was making him sick, I can only imagine how things would have turned out if he began receiving treatment as soon as doctors discovered he had cancer. No one wants to hear a cancer diagnosis, but the sooner you fight it the more likely you’ll be to survive.

  5. Avatar

    I actually had no idea Babe Ruth use to play for the Red Sox originally. I find it odd that he went to the doctor despite now wanting to actually know what was ailing him. It defeats the purpose of such a visit I would think. I wonder what drug was banned and why, if it was essential for the assisting cancer patients, then how could it have been banned. I loved the use of the Sandlot quote at the end.

  6. Avatar

    I’m not a fan of sports, but I respect baseball. I have been fascinating about Babe Ruth for a while now. I feel like this article was a little short for all the accomplishments that this legend did. However, the article did mention the most important details of his path to fame and his passion for the game. It is tough to accept such a tragedy happened to America and one of my favorite sports ever.

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    I know who Babe Ruth is and am very aware of his success as a baseball player, but I never knew about his aggressive throat cancer. Cancer is a horrible disease that many people know way to well, and it is sad to see anybody lose their life to it. Babe Ruth is one of the most famous baseball players ever, and it is almost unimaginable that his cancer made him become almost unrecognizable to his adoring fans. Overall this article is very captivating and does a great job of telling a side of Babe Ruth’s life people do not often talk about.

  8. Avatar

    I’m not really into sports much but I did enjoy reading your article on Babe Ruth. I only have 1 critique and that would be that I wish the article was a little longer and descriptive because I felt as though you jumped from one part of his life to the next, but I still think this was a good article. I did not know that he had developed throat cancer and that that is what led to his death. I had just assumed he had died of natural causes. It’s a shame that his cancer could’ve been prevented had he taken better care of himself and not developed bad habits like smoking and drinking.

  9. Avatar

    It is easy to get wrapped up in fame and in the passion of a game so dear to your heart. Often people in the public eye can lose sight of their health and overall well being. This is particularly prevalent in men because of the heavily toxic masculinity that is imposed of them from such an early age, especially in sports. It is difficult to hear of such tragedy especially in one of the most loved sports in America.

  10. Avatar

    Great article, I am not the biggest fan of baseball but found it interesting. I think you did an interesting thing by talking about the dark side of the Babe Ruth instead of just sticking to his athletic accomplishments. You made “The Great Bambino” feel like a regular person with everyday issues which doesn’t happen often.

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