Going Out With A Bang: Babe Ruth Hits His Last Homer


Babe Ruth in uniform for the Boston Braves on March 17, 1935. (Bettmann/Getty Images)

On May 25, 1935, the great Babe Ruth hit his 712th, 713th, and 714th career home runs and set a record that stood uncontested for the next four decades. Much has been written about the early years of Ruth's illustrious career, but its end, his final game, and his post-baseball life are just as fascinating.

The Sultan Of Swat

George "Babe" Ruth started his baseball career with the Baltimore Orioles but established himself as the best player in the league during his time with the Boston Red Sox, when he set records, took his team to the World Series, and pitched a famous 14-inning game. Ahead of the 1920 season, however, Red Sox owner Harry Frazee sold Ruth to the New York Yankees in a move that shocked and outraged baseball fans, especially those in Boston.

With the Yankees, Ruth switched from pitching to playing outfield, but it was up to bat where Ruth really shined, earning him the nickname "the Sultan of Swat." In fact, for 10 of the first 12 seasons after he was sold to the Yankees, Ruth hit more home runs himself than the entire Red Sox team combined.

Babe Ruth in his first year with the New York Yankees. (Paul Thompson/Wikimedia Commons)

Babe Ruth's Last Home Run

By 1934, Ruth's star was fading. The Yankees released him, and he was picked up by the Boston Braves for the 1935 season, culminating in a legendary game against the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 25, 1935. The competition was fierce, with three future Hall of Famers in the dugout for the Pirates, and the Braves lost 11–7, but Ruth hit three home runs and drove home six runs. He played five more games that season before retiring, but he didn't manage to bang out another homer, setting his career home run record at 714.

In this Clifford Berryman cartoon, presidential candidates Warren G. Harding and James M. Cox wonder at Ruth's record home run pace. (National Archives and Records Administration/Wikimedia Commons)

Life After Baseball

Following his retirement, Ruth hoped to land a job as a baseball manager, but his years of drunken irresponsibility came back to bite him. As one team owner famously said, "Why would we hire you to manage men when you can't even manage yourself?" By the late 1930s, radio broadcasts of baseball games were becoming quite popular, so Ruth pitched himself as a baseball announcer, but every station feared his sharp tongue and continuing battle with alcoholism.

Having gone from setting the home-run record to unemployable, Ruth spent his retirement playing golf, making public appearances, and yes, drinking. His record remained in place for 39 years, and many sports fans believed it would never be broken, but on April 8, 1974, Hank Aaron knocked out his 715th home run. It was a decidedly mixed blessing that Ruth didn't live long enough to see it. After developing throat cancer, Babe Ruth died on August 16, 1948.