Friday, August 10, 2007

Babe Ruth Was Black

I just wanted to get your attention with that headline, although I have read articles in which the authors put forth the unsubstantiated and practically laughable theory that Babe was actually black. But I digress, my article today is actually a defense of the afore mentioned George Herman Ruth. I really do appreciate the different viewpoints that many have on the Barry Bonds issue. I personally have no love for the man, as I've stated many times here. What I am noticing in a lot of articles that would defend bonds, is a general attempt to somehow denigrate the accomplishments and character of Babe Ruth. While history has turned Babe into a beer swilling, good-time guy, who loved all kids and never had anything but kindness and goodwill in his heart, that characterization is probably not very close to the truth. I'm sure there were many in his era who didn't like the man (Lou Gehrig being one notable example). However his accomplishments on the field are without equal in the history of the game.

It's true that he did play in a segregated era, but it's also true that he played against most of the best players of his time. The Negro league players were excluded, but you have to take into account that the percentage of blacks in America at the time was under 10%. Let's say that the Majors were complete integrated and they reflected the racial makeup of the US. That would mean that every team would have approximately 2 black players on their team. That would mean that Ruth would have still been playing against approximately 92% of the same players that he actually compiled his stats against. The Negro Leagues undoubtedly had some of the greatest players of the day. Satchel Paige, Oscar Charleston, Josh Gibson among others put up spectacular numbers and are rightfully honored in Cooperstown. But while the argument is made that Ruth put up his numbers in a segregated league, no one ever argues the fact that the Negro Leaguers put up their numbers in a segregated league as well. And also a league that only drew on 8% of the total population.

The point is that both sets of players faced a less than ideal situation. I have no doubt that the best players in the Negro Leagues would have been among the best players in the Major Leagues, just as I have no doubt that Ruth would have been outstanding if he had the chance to compete against them. I think the empirical evidence shows that Babe Ruth is the greatest player ever to play the game. Was he the best hitter of all time? I don't know, but he's certainly in the conversation. That combined with the fact that he was one of the best pitchers of his era before switching to the outfield full time, have convinced me that he was in fact the best baseball player ever(By the way, in 1933 as a 38 year old, Babe pitched a complete game for the Yankees and got the win).

It is true that Babe had an advantage because he played in a segregated era, but so did everyone else in the majors at the time. One of the points used to defend Bonds is that everyone was on steroids during this era, so his records are valid because the playing field was equal. Bonds just put up better numbers. The same can be said of Babe. Everyone who played in the majors during his era competed on equal footing, Babe just put up better numbers than they did. In 1925 he out-homered the entire Boston Red Sox team! So feel free to defend Bonds, but it shouldn't be at the expense of Babe Ruth (who is after all the greatest black player of all time).

And a little personal aside; Brian, get ready for a big helping of "Mama's Family".

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1 Comments:

Blogger stopmikelupica said...

I agree with your assessment for the most part. Babe Ruth is an amazing hitter, and dominated his league. As I wrote in the comments over at another website (one that asked about the top 5 best players in baseball history):

You can't really compare players from different eras; you can only look at the dominance that player has on the era he played in.

In doing so, I came up with the list as:
1) Babe Ruth
1A) Josh Gibson
3) Barry Bonds
4) Roger Clemens.

For more details on why I put them in that order, check out the full comment:
http://thestartingfive.wordpress.com/2007/08/10/friday-fire-the-legacy-of-barry-bonds-best-of-all-time/#comment-12647

Now, on the point about how much MLB was missing out on - I don't think we're talking 10% here. We know that MLB and the Negro Leagues played many exhibitions over the 50 years of segregation; the end results was an almost equal split between the two league's "All-Star" teams. More importantly, black athletes participate in sports in far greater percentages relative to their population numbers. This is because poorer populations in the U.S. have alway historically sought sports as a way out of the ghetto. This is why there were a lot of Italians in baseball through the 60's; they, too, were trying to make it out of the ghetto.

It's not entirely clear how many good players would have played in Ruth's time, or how much of an impact it might have had. Maybe you are correct, but no one can say for sure.

Good post, very thought provoking.

5:30 PM  

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