Throwback Photo of the Day: Babe Ruth seemed to be very popular in Japan
Photo: Babe Ruth gets warm welcome in Japan
Babe Ruth has not played baseball since 1935. In the intervening 80 years, the reality of who he was as a player has largely been overtaken by the legend of the Bambino. Not only do we have the decades of myth-making -- the called home run, the famously blue-collar demeanor -- but we also have the obscene statistical record he left behind: 714 home runs, 2,214 RBI and a lifetime .474 OBP. His slugging percentage of .690 remains the largest in the history of MLB -- not even Hank Aaron or Barry Bonds surpassed it.
Hearing that resume, it's not surprising that we've elevated Ruth from simply a baseball player to something more approaching a myth. In fact, we aren't even the first to do it.
In November of 1934, just over a month after Ruth's final game with the Yankees, the Bambino joined a group of American players on a barnstorming tour of Japan. Their first game, in Tokyo, saw the Americans defeat a Japanese all-star team, 17-1. The Associated Press had a reporter tagging along with the American contingent, who described the scene thusly:
"Babe Ruth, America's retiring bambino of swat, is still baseball's king in Japan."
And, if you need visual evidence of Ruth's stature in Japan, check out that photo up top. That's him arriving in Japan. Yeah, he was kind of a big deal.
But, unlike most kings, Ruth was pretty down to earth. Here he is looking fly in his special "All-American" jersey:
And he even goofed off by switching hats with a ballboy working one of the games:
So, yeah, we aren't the first people to mythologize the great Bambino, as evidenced by the thousands of adoring fans crammed in to watch the man ply his trade overseas: