Long before the NBA’s LeBron James or even Michael Jordan started raking in tens of millions of dollars in sponsorship deals, there was a legendary professional athlete who created the template for all the superstars to follow: Babe Ruth.
Fox Nation’s “American Icons: Babe Ruth” tells the story of how a troubled boy from a broken home, growing up near Baltimore would go on to become the wealthiest and most beloved sports figure of his time and remembered as arguably the greatest baseball player in history.
In 1920, the New York Yankees purchased Ruth from the Boston Red Sox for the then-staggering sum of $125,000.
It was with the Yankees that Ruth would build his Hall of Fame career over 15 years, accumulating 659 home runs, 1,978 runs batted in, 1,852 walks, and a batting average of .349.
“He becomes the first national popular culture celebrity,” said Jane Leavy, author of the New York Times best-seller “The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created.”
“He hired the first athletic trainer, Artie McGovern, and he hired the first agent, Christy Walsh,” Leavy continued, “Walsh created an economic juggernaut for Babe Ruth, and he created the template for how to be marketed as a professional athlete.”
In 1927, Ruth would make more money off the field then he did on it — marking a turning point in the business of professional sports.
Ruth earned more than $73,000 from appearing at engagements across the country. His Yankee contract was for $70,000 a year.
A three-week barnstorming tour, called the Symphony of Swat, was launched just two days after the Yankee’s swept the Pittsburgh Pirates in four straight games in the World Series. And Ruth was fresh of a record-breaking 60 home run season.
“This was a bigger tour than anyone had ever tried to do,” said Leavy. “Babe Ruth would make $30,000 in the three weeks. It’s huge. It’s absolutely huge.”
But despite all the celebrity and the money pouring in, Leavy said that Ruth’s enthusiasm for his fans — especially his youngest supporters — never wavered.
“His feelings for those kids was genuine. They want to be near him. They want to touch him. You can’t imagine today anybody getting that close to Aaron Judge or Bryce Harper,” she said.
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