Did Babe Ruth really hit 715 home runs?

Babe Ruth’s 714 home runs are one of those numbers that stick in the memory of those who follow the sport. Even after Henry Aaron outscored him with his 715 home run, Babe’s total is still weighty. It remained the most for a southpaw for nearly 40 years, until Barry Bonds surpassed it. They are the only ones to exceed the 700 home hit mark in the history of the American and National Leagues.

But what if George Herman Ruth had spliced ​​715 gunshots? Well, then the day Aaron would have broken the mark would be April 11, 1974, three days after his 715. It would have been against another Dodgers pitcher, rather than Al Downing. The answer to the trivia would be Charlie Hough. Instead of a game-tying two-run homer in the fourth inning, Aaron’s record would have been a solo slam to go up in the seventh.

That would have been the real case, if MLB’s Special Baseball Records Committee had stuck with the original ruling in April 1969. But after giving Ruth credit for his 715th home run, the committee reversed the decision and the mark. stayed at 714.

When is a home run not a home run? As the 1918 rules say.

Before 1920 – when there was not yet a Baseball Commissioner to determine the same rules for various leagues – games that ended with a home run in the ninth inning or more (what we now call a golden home run) ended when the running back representing the race of triumph crossed the plate. If there was a player on first base, with the game tied in the bottom of the 11th inning, and the batter pulled the ball out of the park, the game was over once the victory line was scored, leaving the batter in the third. base with a triple.

That was the scenario that happened in the 10th tranche at Fenway Park on July 8, 1918. With the game tied at zero, 23-year-old Ruth stood at the plate with Amos Strunk standing at first start. Babe was in the midst of his transition from being a pitcher to a player who hits better than he pitches, here the innings pitched and times at bat between his 21-24-year seasons in Boston.

1916: 323.2 IL; 152 VB
1917: 326.1 IL; 142 VB
*1918: 166.1 IL; 382 VB *
1919: 133.1 IL; 543 VB

Stan Coveleski, another future Hall of Famer, was on the mound for Cleveland when Ruth sent the ball well over the right-field wall – it was seen as the longest home run in stadium history for a short period. of time. Because the rules stated that the game was over once Strunk stepped on the plate, Ruth was credited with a triple.

Many saw the flaw in the rule. “THE RULES SHOULD CHANGE TO COVER HITS LIKE RUTH’S,” ran a headline in the Boston Globe. “There’s no reason to leave a man on base when it should have been a Ruth home run,” wrote Melville E. Webb Jr. “It’s not a question of the game ending once the running back hits home plate. Everyone knows that rule. But what harm can scorers do to adjusting the rule so that hits like Ruth’s count?

Those scoring rules would change a little over two years later, but would not apply retroactively. That happened in 1968, when Commissioner William Eckert set about standardizing MLB statistics and records, for the publication of the first Baseball Encyclopedia. The committee was the one that determined which leagues would be considered what we know today as Major Leagues, leaving out the National Association of 1871-1875 and the Negro Leagues (which were not even considered).

But the committee also decided to apply the rules retroactively throughout baseball history, from the founding of the National League. Specifically: “Major League Baseball must have a record record since 1876.”

In the search process, the committee found 37 times a home team hitter hit what for today – and 1968 – means a golden home run, but was only credited with a single, double or triple. In April 1969 it was announced that, when the Baseball Encyclopedia was published later that year, those 37 hits would be recognized as a home run.

The headlines were as follows:

“Ruth hit 714, right? No! That’s 715 for Babe – Chicago Tribune

“Babe hit his home run 715” – Tampa Bay Times

“They finally surpassed Ruth’s 714 home runs” – Arizona Republic

“Sorry Willie: Babe just gave another one” – Wisconsin State Journal

“51 years later, the Sultan has given another one” – Minneapolis Star Tribune

But there were also criticisms. Columnist Dick Young wrote in the New York Daily News: “Look, someone decided that Babe Ruth hit a home run in 1918 that was called a triple, but it must have been a home run. That was 51 years ago. Although it does not seem that 51 years is too many to correct an error, this was not an error, it was simply the execution of a rule in force at that time ”.

Not two weeks had passed when the committee reconvened and decided, with a vote of its members, that they would not apply the current rule to cases from previous years.

“The mission of the authorized persons of the special baseball records committee is to collect data, correct obvious errors and uncover missing material,” said Joe Reichler; Part of the group. “Upon analyzing it, the committee felt that it had gone beyond its authority by interpreting the instructions.”

So Ruth’s total stayed at 714. In fact, she could have benefited. As Young mentioned in his column, praising the committee for rectifying its decision: “I say this on behalf of Ruth, because I’m sure he wouldn’t have wanted two home runs taken from him – the two he hit that bounced into the stands that, under the rules of that day, they were home runs but today they would be doubles. “

Yes, 713 would not be the same.


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Did Babe Ruth really hit 715 home runs?