My Sportsman Choice: Babe Ruth
Posted: Thursday November 18, 2004 11:55AM; Updated: Thursday November 18, 2004 11:55AM
By Richard Deitsch
There are noble alternatives: UConn's Diana Taurasi carried a university on her 6-foot-1 frame and did it with class and grace and a smile as big as Orange County. Boxer Bernard Hopkins, at the preposterous age of 39 years and three months, beat Oscar De La Hoya to defend his middleweight crown successfully for a record 19th time. The Boston Red Sox offered a postmodern tale of a group of sports mercenaries (I realize free-agents is the more polite term) banding together for one glorious cause.
Such figures all had a major impact on sports in 2004. But none had the impact of my Sportsman of the Year, a man who has been dead and buried for the past 56 years. During the final two months of the baseball season, you couldn't read a single story on the Boston Red Sox or New York Yankees that didn't cite his paranormal presence. The Curse. Reverse The Curse. No figure cut a larger swath in this year's World Series than the phattest fat man of them all: George Herman Ruth.
If SI had been publishing in the 1920s -- Get a Red Grange football phone with your subscription! -- Ruth would have been Sportsman of the Year at least a half-dozen times. His impact today remains as large as his 44-ounce bat. In '04 he crossed oceans (The Times of London titled the Red Sox win as Babe Ruth's Curse: Things Come to Teams That Wait) and continents (86 Years on, Boston Banish Curse blared a headline from The Indian Express). My favorite headline came from Australia's The Maitland Mercury (Ruthless Red Sox Bury Bogey).
Red Sox owner Harry Frazee fecklessly traded Ruth all those years ago, and his team paid a serious price. After 86 years, the Big Man finally decided to be a good sport. Sure, you can say Ruth is a flippant pick, but I believe in curses. And I believed in The Curse. You don't tug on Superman's cape. You don't spit into the wind. You don't pull the mask off the old Lone Ranger, and you don't mess with The Babe.
So I'm not taking any chances with The Bambino, who died at the age of 53 on Aug. 16, 1948, the same day six years later that Sports Illustrated published for the first time.
Sports Illustrated will announce the 2004 Sportsman of the Year winner on FOX on November 28. Check back every weekday until then to read more Sportsman picks from SI writers.