This 1921 article was already calling Babe Ruth a “legend,” even though he hadn’t even won his first MVP award yet.
I think most people are hero worshippers, don’t you? Only nowadays they do not pick their heroes from the ranks of soldiers and senators. Five years of war gave us no outstanding figure, but one year of peace gave us Babe Ruth! Foch merely saved the world. The Babe has founded a legend. His is the fame of Ulysses and Charlemagne and Chaplin. His deeds will be told from father to son. His place in history is secure. He’s a hero.
That prediction came true, as Ruth remains one of the most famous athletes ever, even today. Similarly, the one other contemporary reference in that excerpt, Charlie Chaplin, remains one of the most famous movie stars ever.
But 1921 was before Ruth won his lone Most Valuable Player award in 1923, before Ruth’s famous called shot home run in 1932, before his iconic (though possibly apocryphal) line about how he justified earning more money than President Hoover during the Great Depression because “I had a better year.”
Reminds me of when Chicago Bulls owner Jerry Reinsdorf in 1993 called Michael Jordan “the greatest athlete to ever play a team sport”… and then MJ went on to win another three championships and two more MVP awards after that.
Also, the idea that World War I produced “no outstanding figure” is sad but perhaps true. Arguably the most famous such figure may have been Alvin York, the Medal of Honor-winning soldier whose life story was turned into the movie Sergeant York, which won Gary Cooper the 1942 Academy Award for Best Actor. Still, if you ask the average 12-year-old (let’s say), they’ve probably heard of Ruth but probably not York.
‘Heroes by Any Other Name’
Published: Sunday, October 2, 1921