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On this day in Yankees history – Babe Ruth Day

Front page story, New York Times, April 28th, 1947
Front page story, New York Times, April 28th, 1947

71 years ago today, the Yankees hosted Babe Ruth Day at Yankee Stadium to honor the ailing Sultan of Swat, who was nearing the end of his life due of throat cancer. The New York Times reported around 58,339 fans showed up to honor The Great Bambino, with the ceremony and speeches being fed into every Major and Minor League stadium that day.

“Just before he spoke, Ruth started to cough and it appeared that he might break down because of the thunderous cheers that came his way. But once he started to talk, he was all right, still the champion. It was the many men who surrounded him on the field, players, newspaper and radio persons, who choked up.” -The New York Times

This would be his second to last appearance at the stadium dubbed “The House that Ruth Built.” On the 25th anniversary of Yankee Stadium in June 1948, he was honored one last time. Number 3 would be retired by the Yankees that day never to be worn again. It would be just the second retired number in franchise history, after his good friend Lou Gehrig in 1939.

June 13, 1948: Babe Ruth in his last appearance at Yankee Stadium, captured in Nat Fein's Pulitzer Prize winning photo.
June 13, 1948: Babe Ruth in his last appearance at Yankee Stadium, captured in Nat Fein’s Pulitzer Prize winning photo.

The King of Crash walked away from the game owning the record books. He set the bar for: career home runs (714), runs batted in (2,214), walks (2,062), slugging percentage (.690), on-base plus slugging (1.164) and OPS+ (206); the latter three still standing today. He was the first player to hit 30, 40, 50 and 60 homers in a season, and was one of the first five players elected to MLB’s Hall of Fame. If you ask me, number 3 needs to be retired league wide to honor what The Babe did for the game.

“His most extraordinary contribution to the game, however, rests in the fact that he alone changed its complexion and contour. It had been a game of “inside baseball,” a tightly-played contest for single runs – stolen bases; squeeze plays, placement hitting. But the booming bat of the Babe demonstrated that runs could be gathered like bananas – in bunches. He soon had everyone swinging from his heels, shooting for the fences and trying to follow his lead.” – Arthur Daley, New York Times, August 17, 1948.

Ruth would pass away on August 16, 1948 at the age of 53, two months after his number was taken out of circulation in the Bronx. So celebrate Babe Ruth Day today by playing a game of catch. Go to the batting cages and call your shots. Enjoy some peanuts and Cracker Jacks and head out to a ball game.

Check out a newsreel from that historic day below.