The 2020 season will mark exactly 100 years since Babe Ruth first doned the pinstripes to play for the Yankees. It was January 6, 1920 when the sale that brought Ruth from the Red Sox was officially announced.
You probably don’t need much of a refresher on what happened next, but here goes: Ruth went on to set countless records, establishing himself as the greatest player of all time. He helped lead the Yankees to seven World Series titles. That set the tone for the franchise going forward, as they’ve won a further 20 championships and become the most famous brand in the sport.
Before all that, Ruth was still in the midst of making his transition from pitcher to full-time outfielder when the Yankees acquired him. However once he made the move, it became clear pretty quickly just how good he was.
Ruth’s 1920 season was among his best in a career that isn’t short of options for that honor. He put up his career highs in slugging percentage and OBP. His home runs and fWAR are the third highest totals for any season. It would take one more year for him to lead the Yankees to a World Series appearance, but his 1920 was truly incredible.
One hundred years on from Babe Ruth’s first season as a Yankee, let’s look back at some of his best performances from that year as he began his transformation into baseball legend.
Despite how incredibly good his 1920 was, Ruth actually really struggled in his first month with the Yankees. His .508 OPS in April 1920 was the worst he put up in any month in his Yankee career. It was likely due to injury more than anything else, and it didn’t take long for him to get past it.
Everything started to change with his performance on May 1st. In a fairly straight-forward 6-0 win over the Red Sox, Ruth recorded his eighth and ninth hits of the season. One of which was a home run, his first as a Yankee, and the other was a double. They were just his second and third extra-base hits of the season.
He went into this game hitting just .226/.250/.258. By the end of May, he had already shot those numbers up to .299/.409/.729.
The Yankees beat the White Sox 6-5, and Ruth was not solely responsible, but he was pretty close. He went 3-for-3 with a walk in the win. Two of his hits were home runs, and the other was a triple. He finished with four RBI and three runs scored. Considering that the Yankees won by just one run, if he did something just slightly less good in any of his bats, it’s entirely possible the Yankees lose that day.
Considering some of this other statlines on this list, the St. Louis Browns holding Ruth to just one hit in nine innings isn’t terrible. However, this game did not end after nine innings. St. Louis rallied in the top of the ninth, scoring a run to make the score 10-10 and eventually send it to extra innings. After a scoreless tenth, Ruth came up with two on in the bottom of the 11th. He proceeded to hit a walk-off three-run home run. It was his 29th of the season, tying the single-season record that he had just set the season before. Again, it was July 15th.
Towards the end of a season where he had crushed them up to the tune of a .318/.545/.879 triple slash line and 26 RBI in 22 games, the Tigers probably decided to be a little bit more careful with Ruth on September 12th. So, they ended up walking him. Four times. It worked in the sense that he didn’t pick up a hit in either of his non-walk PAs, but the Yankees still won 13-6.
Ruth’s season high in hits came in this game against the Senators. He recorded four hits with one RBI in the Yankees’ 2-1 win. The RBI came on a home run, while he picked up one other extra-base hit on a double. The Yankees got their win on a walk-off hit by Del Pratt. Who did it score? Babe Ruth, of course. In total, Ruth was responsible for four of the seven hits, one of the two RBI, and both of the runs scored put up by the Yankees that day. He could’ve ended up doing even more, but was caught stealing twice.