Early life may have been tough for George Herman Ruth, but baseball was easy. A record-setting pitching ace for the Boston Red Sox, the Bambino switched to outfield so he’d have a chance to play every day — and to set home run and hitting records that stood for decades.
Babe Ruth became one of world’s best-known celebrities. He used his status to market a number of goods and was one of the first to require an agent, says James G. Barber, a historian and curator at the National Portrait Gallery who organized the current exhibition “One Life: Babe Ruth.”
Nearly 50 prints, photos and objects are part of the show, which celebrates Ruth’s oversize life and achievements. And of course, Barber says, “you can’t do a Babe Ruth exhibit without bats and balls,” which, he adds, “are easy to locate but hard to acquire.”
Luckily for us, the Sultan of Swat left a lifetime of numbers as well.
Age at which George Herman Ruth was placed in St. Mary’s Industrial School for Orphans, Delinquent, Incorrigible and Wayward Boys in Baltimore.
Number he used on his uniform playing for the Yankees and the Braves.
Number of consecutive scoreless World Series innings pitched by Ruth for the Boston Red Sox, a record Ruth was most proud of.
Reported sum the New York Yankees paid to buy Ruth’s contract from the Red Sox in 1920.
Number of home runs Ruth hit in 1927, a record that stood for 34 years.
Ruth’s annual salary at the peak of his career in 1930. Endorsements and personal appearances more than doubled that.
Percentage efficiency of Ruth’s swing vs. an average of 60 percent, according to a 1921 article in Popular Science.
Weight, in ounces, of a 36-inch Ruth bat on display in “One Life: Babe Ruth”; most bats at the time were 36 ounces.
Ruth’s age when he retired in 1935.
Year in which the previous record for career home runs was set — 138 by Roger Connor, who wasn’t inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame until 1976.
Number of Ruth’s career homers.
Number of pounds Ruth dropped to play himself in the 1942 movie “The Pride of the Yankees.”
Anniversary of Yankee Stadium that brought Ruth to the ballpark for the last time, in 1948.
Number of years that Ruth’s career home run record stood, before Hank Aaron’s No. 715 in 1975, on his way to a career 755.
Ruth records that have been broken: home runs in one year by Roger Maris in 1961, career home runs by Hank Aaron in 1975, and number of consecutive scoreless World Series innings by Whitey Ford in 1961.
Rank of Ruth today on all-time number of career home runs, after Barry Bonds hit 762 in 2007.
Number of days Ruth lay in state at Yankees Stadium, where an estimated 70,000 people paid their respects.
Exhibition at the Portrait Gallery to use both English and Spanish labels — “One Life: Babe Ruth.”
Number of other baseball players represented in the National Portrait Gallery collection.
Number of other Americans who have been the focus of the museum’s “One Life” exhibition series: Katharine Graham, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Abraham Lincoln, Sandra Day O’Connor, Thomas Paine, Elvis Presley, Ronald Reagan, Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee and Dolores Huerta.
Length, in months, of the “One Life: Babe Ruth” show.
Admission to the National Portrait Gallery
One Life: Babe Ruth Through May 15, 2017, at the National Portrait Gallery, Eighth and F streets NW. Free. 202-633-1000. npg.si.edu.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly said that Ruth wore No. 3 on his uniform while playing for the Red Sox. Major League Baseball didn’t start using uniform numbers until after Ruth had left the Sox.