Babe and MadBum
efore Babe Ruth became famous as... Babe Ruth, he was a young lefthanded pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. Between 1915 and 1919, he helped the Red Sox win three World Series championships. Ruth, of course, was also an outstanding hitter. After the 1919 season, he was sold to the New York Yankees, where he became a full-time outfielder and a legendary Hall of Fame slugger.
Nearly a century after Ruth threw his last pitch for the Red Sox, a young lefthander named Madison Bumgarner threw his first pitch for the San Francisco Giants. Between 2010 and 2014, Bumgarner helped the Giants win three World Series championships.
The similarities between Ruth and Bumgarner are uncanny. Consider the following...
Ruth and Bumgarner share more than just World Series DNA — they both had humble upbringings. Ruth was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and grew up in the St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys, a reformatory and orphanage.
During his years at St. Mary’s, Ruth played nearly every position in the field. In the photo above, Ruth is standing in the middle back row holding a catcher’s mitt and mask.
Ruth's prowess on the baseball field was well-known throughout the Baltimore area. In 1914, he signed a contract with Jack Dunn, the owner/manager of the (then) minor league Baltimore Orioles. When Ruth showed up for his first spring training in Fayetteville, North Carolina, it was likely the first time he had set foot outside of Baltimore. Some of the Oriole veterans began calling Ruth "Dunnie's Babe," which was soon shortened to simply, "Babe." The name stuck.
Bumgarner was born in Hickory, North Carolina, and lived for a time in the loft of a log house his father built. He attended South Caldwell High School and led the Spartans to the North Carolina 4A State Championships his senior year.
In June, 2007, he was drafted by the San Francisco Giants. Bumgarner played his first season in 2008 with the Augusta Greenjackets of the South Atlantic League, and in 2009 he played for the Class A San Jose Giants and the Class AA Connecticut Defenders.
Quick Rise to the Big Leagues
Ruth spent less than two months in the minors and was just 19 1/2 years old when he was made his major league debut for the Red Sox on July 11, 1914. He started the game and beat Cleveland, 4-3.
Bumgarner was barely 20 when he was called up to the San Francisco Giants for the first time in 2009. He made his major league debut against the San Diego Padres on September 8, 2009. He was the youngest Giant to start a game since the team moved to San Francisco in 1958 and the youngest major league player to debut in the 2009 season.
Ruth played for the Red Sox until August when he was sent to the minor league Providence (Rhode Island) Grays to finish the season. Bumgarner played for the Giants through the end of September, and started the 2010 season in the Giants' AAA affiliate in Fresno, California.
Gaining Confidence: 1915
A more seasoned Ruth returned to the Red Sox in the spring of 1915. He had an excellent year and finished the season with an 18-8 record and a 2.44 ERA.
Ruth also made his presence felt with his bat. On May 6, 1915, he hit his first big league home run against the New York Yankees — a towering shot that landed in the second tier of the right field stands at the Polo Grounds. Ruth hit four home runs and batted .315 in 92 plate appearances in 1915.
The Red Sox advanced to the 1915 World Series and beat the Philadelphia Phillies in five games. Ruth didn’t pitch in the series, but he did pinch-hit.
Big League Emergence: 2010
After spending just a few months of the 2010 season in Fresno, Bumgarner was called up to the Giants in late June. He earned his first major league win on July 6th, shutting out the Milwaukee Brewers for eight innings. Bumgarner went 7-6 with a 3.00 ERA during the regular season, including a 1.13 ERA in September during the Giants' stretch drive to the playoffs.
"When I got good enough... when I saw where I could do something. Then I knew what's what I wanted to do. I mean, who wouldn't want to be a major league baseball player?"
— Madison Bumgarner
In October, Bumgarner became the youngest player in Giants franchise history to start and win a postseason game when he beat the Atlanta Braves in the NLDS-clinching game. He also pitched two shutout innings in the Giants’ NLCS-clinching win against the Philadelphia Phillies.
In Game 4 of the 2010 World Series, Bumgarner threw eight shutout innings and beat the Texas Rangers, 4-0. The Giants went on to win their first World Series championship in 56 years.
World Series Heroics: 1916-1919
By 1916, Ruth had settled into life in the big leagues. He went 23–12 and led the American League with a 1.75 ERA and nine shutouts. He also hit three home runs and batted .272.
The Red Sox won the 1916 American League pennant, and Ruth’s first appearance as a pitcher in the World Series was a memorable one. In Game 2 of the series, he and Brooklyn pitcher Sherry Smith squared off in a 14-inning epic battle. The Red Sox finally broke a 1-1 tie in the bottom of the 14th inning and won 2-1. It is still the longest game in World Series history, and Ruth, who pitched the entire game, still holds the record for the most innings pitched in a World Series game. Some baseball experts call it the greatest World Series game ever pitched.
In 1917, Ruth went 24-13 with a 2.01 ERA and six shutouts, along with two home runs and a .325 batting average. By 1918, he started playing in the outfield regularly and his pitching load decreased. In 317 at bats, he hit .300 with 11 home runs, which tied him for the major league lead. He also had a 13-7 record as a pitcher. The Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs met in the 1918 World Series and Ruth was again sensational as a pitcher. He made three appearances in the series, won two games, and pitched 29 2/3 scoreless innings -— a record that stood for 43 years.
In 1919, Ruth pitched in only 17 games (he was 9-5 with a 2.97 ERA). But he was a terror at the plate. In 130 games, he hit .322 and clobbered a record 29 home runs, which was more than most teams hit that year. Ruth's metamorphosis from an outstanding pitcher to a unsurpassed hitter was complete — as was his career with the Red Sox.
During the offseason, Red Sox owner Harry Frazee stunned the baseball world when he sold Ruth to the Yankees for $125,000. The Yankees wanted Ruth for his bat — not his pitching. Ruth would go on to hit a record 714 home runs and 2,213 RBIs in his career, and the Yankees won 7 World Series championships during his years in New York. Boston didn't win another World Series title for 86 years.
The cover of Baseball Magazine in April, 1920 after Ruth was sold to the Yankees.
World Series Heroics: 2011-2015
Bumgarner was 13-13 for the Giants in 2011 and 16-11 in 2012. Once again, the World Series brought out his best. In Game 2 of the 2012 World Series, Bumgarner threw seven scoreless innings to lead the Giants to a 2-0 win over the Tigers. The Giants swept the Tigers in four games to win their second World Series championship in three years.
In 2013, Bumgarner went 13-9 with a 2.77 ERA, and in 2014, he was 18-10 with a 2.98 ERA. He hit his first career grand slam on July 13, 2014, and hit four home runs with a .258 batting average during the 2014 season.
Bumgarner pitching against the Kansas City Royals in the 2014 World Series
In 2014, the Giants reached the World Series for their third time in five years. Bumgarner did not surrender his first run in World Series play until he gave up a solo home run to Salvador Perez of the Kansas City Royals in the seventh inning of Game 1 of the 2014 World Series — a scoreless streak of 21 1/3 innings. He got the win and the Giants beat the Royals, 7-1.
Bumgarner's best was still to come.
In Game 5 of the same series against Kansas City, he threw a 4-hit complete-game shutout, and in the process set a career World Series record with a 0.29 ERA. Then, in Game 7, with only two days rest, he threw five scoreless innings of relief to earn the save in a 3-2 victory, as the Giants won their third World Series title in five years. Bumgarner was named the World Series MVP in what many baseball experts say was the most dominant performance in World Series history. He also threw a record 52 2/3 innings in the 2014 postseason and was fittingly given the Babe Ruth Award as the 2014 postseason MVP.
Comparing Ruth and Bumgarner
Regular Season Career Pitching Totals
World Series Career Pitching Totals
Regular Season Hitting Totals (through first 350 career ABs)
Ruth: Regular Season Hitting Totals (1914-1919)
Regular Season Hitting Totals (Career)
www.huffingtonpost.com (Michael Klopman)
www.si.com (Tom Verducci)
www.nytimes.com (Michael Powell)