Babe RuthGeorge Herman Ruth, Jr. (1895-1948), American baseball player, was the sport's greatest celebrity and most enduring legend. He was born on February 6, 1895, in Baltimore, one of eight children of a saloonkeeper. Judged as incorrigible at the age of seven, Ruth went the St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys, where he learned baseball from a sympathetic monk. His left-handed pitching brilliance prompted Jack Dunn of the Baltimore Orioles to adopt him in 1914 to secure his release. That same year Dunn sold him to the American League Boston Red Sox. Ruth pitched on championship teams in 1915 and 1916, but his hitting soon marked him as an outfielder. In 1919 his 29 home runs set a new record and heralded a new playing style. Baseball had been dominated by pitching and offense; by 1920 Ruth's long hits inaugurated the "big bang" style.
In 1920 Babe Ruth was sold to the New York Yankees for $100,000 and a $350,000 loan. This electrifying event enhanced his popularity. His feats and personality made him a national celebrity. An undisciplined, brawling wastrel, he earned and spent thousands of dollars. By 1930 he was paid $80,000 for a season, and his endorsement income usually exceeded his annual income.
Ruth led the Yankees to seven championships, including four World Series titles. He was the game's perennial home run champion, and the 60 he hit in 1927 set a record for the 154-game season (Roger Maris hit 61 home runs in 1961, but on the extended game schedule). His lifetime total of 714 home runs is second only to Hank Aaron's 755. With a .342 lifetime batting average for 22 seasons of play, many rate him the game's greatest player.
When his career ended in 1935, Ruth's reputation as being undisciplined frustrated his hopes of becoming a major league manager. In 1946 he became head of the Ford Motor Company's junior baseball program.
Red Grange (1903-1991) made football history as one of the most remarkable amateur and professional athletes of all. He was called "The Galloping Ghost," and it was his presence that brought pro football from the sandlots to the big time.
William Harrison "Jack" Dempsey ushered in the age of big-time sports. His rise from hobo to heavyweight champion to Hollywood celebrity not only gave boxing the stamp of legitimacy, but became the prototype for every superstar athlete that followed. His popularity during and after his boxing career overshadowed all of his contemporaries, including Babe Ruth . Dempsey's ventures in films, on Broadway and in the restaurant business were made possible because of the American public's unchecked adoration for him.
Helen Wills (1905-1998) was one of the dominant American and international female tennis players during the late 1920s and most of the 1930s. She won 31 major international tennis championships. In her prime, she won 180 straight matches against the best women in tennis without losing a single set. In 1938, she retired from tennis and became an artist, exhibiting her paintings and drawings throughout the U.S. and Europe.
Gertrude Ederle (born 1906) was one of the most famous athletes in the world. On August 6, 1926, she became the first woman to swim across the English Channel from France to England, a feat she accomplished in 14 hours 34 minutes. Her time beat the previous men's world record by 1 hour and 59 minutes.