100 Years Ago Today: Babe Ruth’s First HR… it was, needless to say, a different time.

It’s says something about how old baseball is that we can hold centennials for home runs. As in, individual home runs. Such as the case of today, where we celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first of Babe Ruth‘s 714 home runs, which he hit May 6, 1915 at the Polo Grounds against the Yankees. He also made his first error that day, but that presumably won’t be commemorated. It wasn’t much noticed at the time- a cursory look at SABR’s online Sporting News doesn’t bring up anything (although certainly that doesn’t mean it isn’t there).

Perhaps that was because Ruth was, of course, a pitcher at the time. And on that day, he went all 12.1 innings of the game before finally he gave up the game-winning run in the 4-3 loss in 13 innings. He went 3-5 at the plate that day, though, moving his batting average to .417 on the season- he would end up hitting .315 on the year in 92 ABs.

It was, needless to say, a different time:

  • The career HR leader was Roger Connor, with 138.
  • The single-season HR leader was Ned Williamson, who had hit 27 for Chicago in 1884. Gavvy Cravath would give chase to that in 1915 with 24 HRs.
  • The active HR leader was Honus Wagner, who had 94 at the time.
  • Ruth’s 4 HRs in 1915 were good enough for being tied for 9th in the AL.
  • Shoeless Joe Jackson would take the career and active leads in slugging percentage in 1915 and finish the season with a career total of .527- his career would end with it at .517. By comparison, Babe Ruth’s final career slugging percentage would be .690, a record he still holds to this day.
  • The highest career WAR at the time- and this was long, long, LONG before WAR was a statistic- was 168.4, held by Cy Young. Babe Ruth’s career WAR, still a record, ended up being 183.6.
  • The highest career position player WAR at the end of 1915 was Wagner, with 128.5. Ruth would end his career with 163.1, still a record (Barry Bonds is second at 162.4).
  • Ruth would win 18 games in 1915, good enough for being tied for 9th in the AL that season. It would have tied him for the most wins in the AL in 2014.
  • Ruth ended up throwing 217.2 IP in 1915, which wasn’t anywhere good enough for a top 10 finish in the AL that season (the 10th place man that year, Jean Dubuc, had thrown 258 innings) … but it would have been good for 8th in 2014!
  • On the flip-side, his 4.631 SO/9, which was good for 8th in the AL in 1915, would be nowhere near the top 10 in 2014, where, for comparison, the 8th best (Drew Hutchison) had 8.968 SO/9.
  • The man who Ruth hit his first HR (and, coincidentally, his second) off of was Jack Warhop, who would give up seven that year- tied for the most in the AL. By comparison, the player gave up the most HRs in the AL in 2014 was Hector Noesi, with 28.
  • The consecutive games played streak was held by George Pinkney, at 577. Ruth’s teammate that day, Everett Scott, would on June 20, 1916 begin a streak of 1,307 games. Wally Pipp, who Ruth would hold to 1-6 with a strikeout on this day 100 years ago, would later go on to have a fairly long consecutive game streak of his own, only to be replaced one day by a man named Lou Gehrig, who would break Scott’s record.
  • The Yankees had won a grand total of zero World Series titles.
  • The team with the most World Series titles at the time was the Athletics, with three. The Red Sox would tie that when they won the World Series that year.
  • Hank Aaron had not yet been born. Josh Gibson was three. Lou Gehrig was 11. Guy Bush, who would give up Ruth’s 714th HR (and his 713th, by the way), was 13.
  • The Cubs had won two World Series. That, as we know, is still their number. The more things change, the more things stay the same.




1 thought on “100 Years Ago Today: Babe Ruth’s First HR… it was, needless to say, a different time.

  1. I stumbled upon this post whilst looking at Shoeless Joe Jackson’s Baseball Reference page. It’s an excellent post, and I really enjoyed it — great mix of nostalgia and perspective. Thank you!

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