Ruth tied his own
record of 29 homers on July 15, hit his record-breaking 30th on July 19 in the
second game of a doubleheader, then followed it with another in the same game
and one more the next afternoon. In eight trips to the plate in those two games
he made out only once; every other time he batted he either hit a home run or
received a base on balls.
By the end of
July he had 37 homers. Maintaining that pace would have carried him past 60,
but he slowed drastically and hit only seven during the next five weeks. In
September he came alive again and hit 10 in his last 24 games to finish with
54. Second to him was Sisler, with 19. The National League champion had 15.
performance in 1920 is a baseball landmark. Along with the 54 homers, he batted
.376, hit nine triples and 36 doubles, scored 158 runs, batted in 137, stole 14
bases. His slugging average was .847, still the major league record. Sports
Researcher George Russell Weaver, quoted by David Willoughby in his book The
Super Athletes, called it the best single season any major league hitter has
ever had. Weaver based his opinion on a comparison of Ruth's home-run
performance with that of the league as a whole. As an example, Weaver noted
that Bill Terry's oft-cited batting average of .401 in 1930 was achieved in a
season when the league batted .303; Terry's performance was therefore nowhere
near as impressive as Honus Wagner's .354 in 1908, when the league batted only
.239. Only five men in the league batted over .300 in 1908, whereas more than
50 batted over .300 in 1930. When Ruth hit his 54 home runs in 1920, Weaver
observed, only one other team in the league hit more than 44.
Thus, Ruth came
to New York and in his first year there gave the fans the best season a
ballplayer ever had. The city was crazy about him, and Babe felt completely at
home. After he brought Helen down from Boston they began living in a suite in
the elegant Ansonia Hotel on Broadway at 73rd Street. It was a lavish,
exuberant time, establishing the tone for all his years in New York. Babe,
often without Helen, began moving with the night people, and the legend began
to grow, the stories running together until the adventures of one year became
indistinguishable from those of another.
you last night, Babe?" a teammate asked.
"I was at a
party with those movie people."
know—what the hell are their names?"
Their names, it
turned out, were Douglas Fairbanks and Mary Pickford, rather like saying half a
century later that one had spent the evening with those movie people Richard
What's-his-name and Elizabeth Something-or-other.
available, and he found them with no trouble. He seldom boasted of his sexual
exploits, but neither was he shy about them. More sort of admiring. "You
should have seen this dame I was with last night," he told a teammate.
"What a body. Not a blemish on it."