Many of us have had the pleasure of watching all-time greats such as Michael Jordan, Tom Brady, Hank Aaron, Wayne Gretzky and Tiger Woods perform in their primes.
But few of us have had the pleasure of watching the man widely considered the greatest baseball player of all time — Babe Ruth.
Ruth retired in 1935, before commercial television broadcasting began in the United States, and there is very little footage of the Sultan of Swat doing what he did better than anyone who ever played the game, hit a baseball.
But thanks to Moving Image Research Collections at the University of South Carolina, we have new video of Ruth and New York Yankees teammate Lou Gehrig taking batting practice.
According to YouTube post, the footage was taken by Fox Movietone on April 11, 1931, in Brooklyn, New York, where Ruth and Gehrig were taking batting practice before an exhibition game.
“With modern technology, we can witness this footage adjusted to a normal speed which results in a very high framerate,” it says.
Ruth had a closed stance with his feet very close together before he lunged at the pitch. Gehrig had a much more traditional stance.
It’s batting practice, so they were taking bigger hacks at the ball. You can see them both wind up before swinging.
Still, it’s fascinating to watch these two legends in batting practice.
MIRC also restored footage of a game between the Yankees and Philadelphia Athletics on April 24, 1934, at Yankee Stadium. Hall of Famers Ruth, Jimmie Foxx, Connie Mack and Joe McCarthy are among those featured.
In addition, MIRC posted footage of a Yankees game against the Boston Red Sox on April 14, 1931, at Yankee Stadium. It was Opening Day, and the video includes highlights from the game as well as Ruth signing autographs and talking to fans and reporters.
Ruth hit a home run in that game. He can be seen crowding the plate and putting far less wind-up in his swing than in the batting practice video.
Ruth had 46 home runs that year at age 36 and drove in 162 runs, which was the second highest total of his career. His batting average was .373.
He ended his career with 714 career home runs, a record that stood until 1974, when Hank Aaron surpassed him. In 2007, Barry Bonds passed Aaron’s 755 home runs and went on to become the all-time leader with 762.
Ruth also had 2,214 career RBIs, which is second all-time to Aaron.
It’s pointless to compare players from different eras for many reasons; all you can do is look at how players performed against their peers, and Ruth was clearly head and belly above the rest.
Thanks to MIRC for letting us take a peek back at an all-time great in his prime.
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