Count Down on Babe Ruth's Record

Babe Ruth, widely regarded as the greatest baseball player ever, set the most famous record in all of sports: He hit 60 home runs in one year.

After that, some other guy hit 61 home runs in one year, but that doesn't count, because that other guy did it in a 162 game year, whereas Babe Ruth did it in a 154 game year.

Baby Ruth also did it while playing on what is regarded as the greatest baseball team ever: The 1927 New York Yankees.

Babe Ruth

Now, three players are simultaneously threatening to break Babe Ruth's record. McGwire of St. Louis has hit 45 home runs in 114 games. Sammy Sosa of Chicago has hit 43 home runs in 116 games. Ken Griffey Jr. of Seattle has hit 41 home runs in 114 games.

As you can see, all three of them are set to break Ruth's record of 60 home runs in 154 games.

Also, the claim that the 1927 New York Yankees was the greatest baseball team ever is about to go down the drain as well. The 1998 Yankees have won 73.9% of their games, with 82 wins and 29 losses, which places them far ahead of the 1927 Yankees.

One question which comes up is whether all of these records are being broken because the players are better nowadays, or is it because the players are worse.

There are two views: One is that the players are better today because in 1927 blacks were not allowed to play in the major leagues. Some baseball historians claim that the Negro leagues of that time were actually stronger than the major leagues. Moreover, nowadays the major leagues tend to be almost dominated by players from such places as the Caribbean Islands, including the Dominican Republic and Cuba. Examples are Sammy Sosa of the Dominican Republic and Orlando Hernández of Cuba. Even a few Japanese players are in the major leagues nowadays, whereas back then only white Americans got into the major leagues.

The contrary view is that back then there were only 14 teams in the major leagues and the player rosters were smaller. Nowadays, there are 13 teams in the American league and 16 teams in the National League, for a total of 29 teams in all. Detractors say that a lot of the players who are now in the major leagues would have been playing AA ball back then. Overall, the players are now weaker and this makes it easier for a few outstanding players to break all records, they say.

Sam Sloan

UPDATE: Mark McGwire hit an amazing four home runs in his last two games to finish the season with 70 home runs.

Sammy Sosa of the Dominican Republic, after briefly passing McGwire, ended the season with 66 home runs.

The New York Yankees won 114 games, the most in major league history except for the 1906 Chicago Cubs, who won 116 games. The most amazing thing about this is that none of the Yankee players are having an especially good year. Their fantastic result seems to be the result of team synergy and good coaching rather than individual performances.

Please note: The 1906 Chicago Cubs are not remembered as one of the greatest baseball teams in history because they lost the World Series 4-2. Almost every major league baseball team which won more than 100 games in the regular season lost the World Series.

Interesting fact: The World Series is so named because it was sponsored by the New York World newspaper. Ever after the New York World folded, the name continued to be used.

There is no chance that Mark McGwire will be remembered in the same breath as Babe Ruth. McGwire only hits home runs. He has less single base hits than he has home runs. He also is a designated hitter, which means that he does not play outfield. Babe Ruth was an all around player who was even a star pitcher. In 1927, Babe Ruth hit more home runs than the entire rest of the Yankees combined plus twice the home runs of any other major league player.

Another cloud over the performance of McGwire is that he takes performance enhancing drugs. There drugs are banned in most other sports but not in baseball.

Sam Sloan

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