Babe Ruth Death Shocks Baseball World

It was the kind of headline that topped newspapers across the United States and around the world following the death of Babe Ruth in the summer of 1948.

Even though everyone knew the Sultan of Swat had been unwell for some time, it was still a shock to see THE baseball god stricken down at the young age of 53.

Here are 10 facts surrounding Babe Ruth’s death that every baseball fans should know.

Babe Ruth Died on August 16, 1948

Ruth died nearly two years after being diagnosed with cancer, in 1946.

What Kind of Cancer Did Babe Ruth Have?

Ruth was diagnosed with a malignant tumor in his neck and at the base of his skull in November of 1946 after developing pain and a loss of vision in his right eye, and difficulty swallowing.

He underwent various treatments, including early forms of chemotherapy, over the next two years, before succumbing to the disease.

Babe Ruth Died at Memorial Hospital

Ruth entered New York’s Memorial Hospital in New York during the summer of 1948 and never left … aside from a July 26 jaunt to see the premiere of The Babe Ruth Story (affiliate link) starring William Bendix at a New York City theater.

Babe Ruth Visited Yankee Stadium One Final Time

On June 13, 1948, Ruth and other surviving members of the 1923 Yankees were honored at Yankee Stadium as part of the of the ballpark’s 25th anniversary celebration.

Widely known as “The House That Ruth Built,” Yankee Stadium would become the site of many of Ruth’s most famous moments, and one of the most iconic sporting venues in all the world.

During his final visit to The Stadium on that summer day, Ruth was photographed facing “Ruthville” in right field, standing near home plate and using a bat as a cane.

Nat Fein snapped a photo of Ruth from behind, and that iconic image won a Pulitzer Prize.

Babe Ruth Lay in State at Yankee Stadium

For two days after dying in his sleep, Babe Ruth lay in state, in his open casket, in the Yankee Stadium rotunda. Nearly 80,000 mourners passed by in that period to pay tribute to the great Bambino.

Lasting Effects of Babe Ruth Death

Even years after Babe Ruth died, his passing continued to impact the game and popular culture.

On April 19, 1949, for example, the Yankees unveiled a granite monument to their lost legend in centerfield at Yankee Stadium. It was the beginning of a long tradition of the Bronx Bombers honoring their franchise greats with similar tributes.

The place where those statues stand is now known as Monument Park, and includes the likenesses of such Yankees greats as Thurman Munson, Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, Bernie Williams, Mariano Rivera, and many others.

In 1973, Babe Ruth’s birthplace in Baltimore was restored and opened to the public as a museum.

Even today, Ruth’s impact on baseball and popular culture cannot be overstated. He remains the all-time leader in Wins Above Replacement (WAR) and set a standard for power-hitting that has been approached but never really exceeded.

Indeed, even though Ruth’s single-season and career records for home runs have been surpassed (by Roger Maris, Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds; and by Hank Aaron and Bonds, respectively), no other player has stood so head-and-shoulders above his contemporaries.

And none has inspired the imagination of so many aspiring big leaguers, or the dreams of so many Little Leaguers from all walks of life.

To say the Babe Ruth death continues to impact baseball is an understatement as big as the man’s swing itself.

(Some Babe Ruth facts culled from Wikipedia.)