As one of the greatest baseball players of all time, Babe Ruth is known for hitting home runs with regularity. But Ruth’s off-the-field antics are almost as legendary as his on-the-field accomplishments. One of the most famous stories is that he once spent a night in jail, before sprinting to the ballpark and hurling an improbable shutout for the New York Yankees, just to save himself $500. The details of the story are disputed, but what isn’t disputed is that baseball players, like all of us, have their vices.
In the roaring 20s, Babe Ruth was a superstar. He was a good-looking guy, good at sports, and one of the biggest celebrities in the world. So it should come as no surprise that he was involved in an incident that would make him a hero to millions of Americans. So, what happened?
Although it has been more than 85 years since he played in a professional game, Babe Ruth still has a major impact on baseball. During his time with the New York Yankees, Sultan Swata went from a talented player to an important figure. In retrospect, though, that star status seems well deserved. Aside from her accomplishments on the field, Ruth’s life off the field sometimes resembles a movie. Take, for example, a case from 1921 where Babe Ruth had to spend a day in jail after a number of speeding tickets. As you can imagine, life behind bars collided with his day job, and Bambino had to run around New York City desperately trying to save $500.
Babe Ruth became a household name when he played for the New York Yankees
. COMPARED TO: Babe Ruth was the scariest player in baseball, but he feared his wife after he secretly dated his mistress Professional athletes easily become household names these days; even if you’re not a sports fan, you probably know people like LeBron James and Tom Brady. In Babe Ruth’s day, however, things were a little different. Ruth was certainly not born with a silver spoon in her mouth. Although he was not an orphan, young George Herman entered St. Mary’s Industrial School. St. Mary’s for orphans, delinquents, incorrigible and uneducated boys. That’s where he learned to play baseball. Babe proved that he was a born player who could succeed as both a pitcher and a hitter, signing with the Baltimore Orioles of the International League. He then moved to the Boston Red Sox before being traded to the New York Yankees in an infamous trade. Once Ruth made it to the Big Apple, his incredible talent and vibrant personality made him an instant hit. As Smithsonian Magazine explains, the Big Bambino was one of the first athletes to become a celebrity himself; he advertised merchandise, had his name published in a sports column, and even hired a public relations agent.
A day in jail and a race for $500 to become a New York Yankeesplayer
Babe Ruth poses with two young fans in his car. | Bettmann via Getty Images COMPARED TO: Little-known story of how Babe Ruth almost became a Cincinnati Redsplayer During his time in New York, Babe Ruth became a huge celebrity. But the power of the stars could not prevent him from going to prison in 1921. As Wally Pipp told Sports Illustrated in an old story, the Yankees star got into trouble after committing his second speeding ticket in two months. Ruth was fined $100 – which he paid without hesitation – but he also had a bigger problem: A day in prison awaited him, and the Yankees had a game tomorrow. If he had missed the game, the team would have fined him $500. Fortunately for the Big Bambino, 4pm is considered the end of the workday in New York. This meant that Ruth would be free before the end of the game; however, getting to the stadium on time was another matter. According to Pipp’s account, Ruth received his uniform in advance and changed clothes before leaving the cell; then he went to the basement, got into his car and drove to the Polo Grounds with the help of a police escort. Sultan Swata came on in the sixth inning, got a standing ovation and made a $500 save. Despite dropping the puck in his only appearance on the field that night, the Yankees won and beat the Indians 4-3.
If anyone could afford to lose $500, it was Babe Ruth
COMPARED TO: Babe Ruth had a rare form of cancer before her tragic death It goes without saying that no one wants to lose $500 of their salary. But if anyone can afford such a punishment, it’s probably Babe Ruth. As noted on the Baseball Almanac site, a 1932 Sporting News article reported Ruth’s annual salary. Although he earned only $600 in his first season with the Baltimore Orioles, Ruth’s annual income rose to $20,000 when he transferred to the New York Yankees. At the height of his career, Slugger earned $80,000 a season, which today equates to about $1.3 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics inflation calculator. Wally Pipp also noted that while Babe Ruth was fined $500 for missing the game, he also received a $500 bonus for every home run he hit. While it’s unclear how long the deal was in effect – the Yankees could have traded that incentive for a bigger salary in the future – it’s safe to assume that Bambino could have paid the fine that awaited him.