CONSTRUCTING A LEGEND SINCE 1919
Selling the Game
The legend pitches baseball to America
     Major League Baseball rode Babe Ruth's popularity out of the depths of the Black Sox scandal in 1919. Fans flocked to see him play.
A crowd greets Ruth Babe Ruth (arrow) gets lost in a crowd of autograph seekers after an exhibition game.
All teams except for Detroit and Boston increased their attendance in 1920. Yankee Stadium was built in 1923 to accommodate the thousands of fans who wanted to see the Babe play. It was the largest stadium ever built, with a seating capacity of 62,000. But when it opened on April 18, 1923, 74,000 fans packed the aisles and the seats. "The heads were packed in so closely that Al Goullet, the six-day bicycle rider, could have ridden his bike around the stadium on the track of their hats" (Ward, p.169).

     His prolific home run production left fans gasping in awe and drew fans into the stadium. But without the Babe's unabashed love for the game, baseball may not have been able to realize the popularity it enjoyed before the Black Sox scandal. According to Grantland Rice, "he has made a fortune at baseball, but the crowd could see that he was playing the game for fun above all else" (Inabinett, p. 48). He was also always telling everyone about the greatness of the game. "Baseball was, is and always will be to me the best game in the world," Ruth said. The joy that the Babe experienced every time he stepped onto the diamond was a refreshing reminder that gamblers and conspirators did not overrun baseball.

     Ruth targeted his overtures for the game toward the youth in America. He recognized that they were the key to baseball's continued success. "You know this baseball game of ours comes up from the youth," Ruth said when he addressed the crowd on Babe Ruth day. "That means the boys. And after you've been a boy, and grow up to know how to play ball, then you come to the boys you see representing themselves today in our national pastime."

     His combined love of baseball and children produced one of the great salesmen the game has ever known. Ruth and the Yankees barnstormed across America and played in exhibition games against local teams. Whenever a child would ask him for an autograph, he happily obliged. He urged children to play ball on a sunny day in commercials. "I won't be happy until we have every boy in America between the ages of six and sixteen wearing a glove and swinging a bat," Ruth said.

Ruth published ghostwritten books that taught children how to play baseball.
     To aide aspiring major leaguers, Ruth published ghostwritten books like How to Knock Home Runs. Fans could learn more about the life of a baseball player by reading his ghostwritten autobiography, Babe Ruth's Own Book of Baseball. Pins and buttons indicated that you were a member of the "Babe Ruth Boys Club." Babe Ruth was the face of baseball.

     Ruth's influence on youngsters extended far beyond his playing days. According to journalist Tom Meany, the majority of the letters Ruth received while fighting a losing battle against cancer were from children who were born soon before the Babe hung up his cap and glove for the last time. "Few celebrities, ball players or crooners, actors or politicians, achieve a grip on the public which extends beyond their active and productive years," Meany wrote (Meany, p. 20). Ruth's influence on youth baseball can still be seen today in the many Babe Ruth leagues around the country. By actively selling the game to youngsters, Ruth ensured that baseball would enjoy continued success long after his career was over.


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