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Old 10-06-2006, 02:34 AM   #1
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Default The Babe VS Bonds








Barry vs. Babe: No contest
Can't be replaced

SoCals link: http://www.usatoday.com/news/opinion...uth-edit_x.htm

Wipe Ruth out? Even if he hit 1,000 homers, the chance of Bonds eclipsing Babe Ruth as the most famous player in history would be as slim as — well, Bill Clinton or George W. Bush knocking Abraham Lincoln off his presidential shrine.

Look, it's futile entertainment to compare athletes of different eras. Who was greater: Jack Johnson or Muhammad Ali, Wilt Chamberlain or Michael Jordan, Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods? So I'll let baseball's legion of addicts bicker over the hitting numbers, Bonds vs. Babe.

I'd submit that Ruth had one edge as a complete player. Before he became the Yankee home-run attraction, he was a superb Red Sox pitcher who won 18, 23 and 24 games in 1915-17. Unless Bonds develops a fast ball, he can't match Ruth as a World Series winner as hurler and slugger. I agree, though, that Ruth played in an all-white game while Barry's modern era of black, Latino and Asian players is faster, more athletic.

Because of the drug allegations — not his churlish, self-absorbed attitude — I wouldn't vote for Bonds when he's Hall of Fame eligible in 2011. He's done as much damage to his sport as Pete Rose did.

True, Ruth was a lousy role model, too. Once I asked an old Yankee catcher named Benny Bengough about rooming with Ruth. "I didn't room with the Babe. I roomed with his suitcase," he told me. Ruth was a clownish, profane man, a world-class skirt-chaser who stuffed himself with hot dogs and bootleg whiskey. "I like to live as big as I can," Ruth bragged.

But Bonds' jab at Ruth is absurd. Ruth is a legend, the subject of at least two movies (portrayed by William Bendix and John Goodman) and a slew of books (the best is Robert Creamer's Babe). He personified the Jazz Age. His homer blasts changed sports much like the forward pass changed football. He was funny. Asked why his annual-salary demand (of $80,000) should top President Hoover's, Ruth said, "I had a better year than he did."

Ruth will always be a folk hero, Bonds a tainted pariah. It didn't have to be that way. When I saw Bonds play a few innings last year, he seemed a limping, fat old man, a figure of sadness, not triumph.

On the night Bonds breaks Ruth's record, let the Lords of Baseball stand up and share the dishonor. The Juice Era that Bonds symbolizes was their handicraft. Their greed, guile and lack of guts was a drug, too.

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Old 10-06-2006, 02:35 AM   #2
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Old 10-06-2006, 02:35 AM   #3
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Old 10-06-2006, 02:36 AM   #4
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Old 10-06-2006, 02:36 AM   #5
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Old 10-06-2006, 02:37 AM   #6
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Old 10-06-2006, 02:38 AM   #7
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Old 10-06-2006, 02:39 AM   #8
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Old 10-06-2006, 02:40 AM   #9
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Old 10-06-2006, 02:40 AM   #10
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Old 10-06-2006, 02:44 AM   #11
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Old 10-06-2006, 02:46 AM   #12
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Old 10-06-2006, 02:50 AM   #13
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Old 10-06-2006, 02:52 AM   #14
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Old 10-06-2006, 02:52 AM   #15
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Old 10-06-2006, 05:29 AM   #16
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Quote:
Why Babe Ruth is Greatest Home-Run Hitter

Hugh S. Fullerton (1921)

Published in Popular Science Monthly

Popular Science Monthly tests in the laboratory his brain, eye, ear, and
muscle -- and gets his secret


The game was over. Babe, who had made one of his famous drives that day, was
tired and wanted to go home.

"Not tonight, Babe," I said. "Tonight you go to college with me. You're
going to take scientific tests which will reveal your secret."

"Who wants to know it?" asked Babe.

"I want to know it," I replied, "and so do several hundred thousand fans. We
want to know why it is that one man has achieved a unique batting skill like
yours -- just why you can slam the ball as nobody else in the world can."

So away we went. Babe in his baseball uniform, not home to his armchair, but
out to Columbia University to take his first college examination.

Babe went at the test with the zeal of a schoolboy, and the tests revealed
why his rise to fame followed suddenly after years of playing during which
he was known as an erratic although a powerful hitter. How he abruptly
gained his unparalleled skill has been one of baseball's mysteries.

Albert Johanson, M.A., and Joseph Holmes, M.A., of the research laboratory
of Columbia University's psychological department, who, in all probability,
never saw Ruth hit a baseball, and who neither know or care if his batting
average is .007 or .450, are .500 hitters in the psychology game. They led
Babe Ruth into the great laboratory of the university, figuratively took him
apart, watched the wheels go round; analyzed his brain, his eye, his ear,
his muscles; studied how these worked together; reassembled him, and
announced the exact reasons for his supremacy as a batter and a ball-player.

Baseball employs scores of scouts to explore the country and discover
baseball talent. These scouts are known as "Ivory hunters," and if
baseball-club owners take the hint from the Ruth experiments, they can
organize a clinic, submit candidates to the comprehensive tests undergone by
Ruth, and discover whether or not other Ruths exist. By these tests it would
be possible for the club owners to discover -- during the winter, perhaps --
whether the ball-players are liable to be good, bad, or mediocre; and, to
carry the [p. 20] practical results of the experiments to the limit, then
may be able to eliminate the possibility, or probability, of some player
"pulling a boner" in mid-season by discovering, before the season starts,
how liable he is to do so.


The scientific ivory hunters of Columbia University discovered that the
secret of Babe Ruth's batting, reduced to non-scientific terms, is that his
eyes and ears function more rapidly than those of other players; that his
brain records sensations more quickly and transmits its orders to the
muscles much faster than does that of the average man. The tests proved that
the coordination of eye, brain, nerve system, and muscle is practically
perfect, and that the reason he did not acquire his great batting power
before the sudden burst at the beginning of the baseball season of 1920, was
because, prior to that time, pitching and studying batters disturbed his
almost perfect coordination.

Ruth the Superman

The tests revealed the fact that Ruth is 90 per cent efficient compared with
a human average of 60 per cent.

That his eyes are about 12 per cent faster than those of the average human
being.

That his ears function at least 10 per cent faster than those of the
ordinary man. That his nerves are steadier than those of 499 out of 500
persons.

That in attention and quickness of perception he rated one and a half times
above the human average.

That in intelligence, as demonstrated by the quickness and accuracy of
understanding, he is approximately 10 per cent above normal.

It must not be forgotten that the night on which the tests were made was an
extremely warm one, and that in the afternoon he had played a hard,
exhausting game of baseball before a large crowd, in the course of which he
had made one of those home-run hits which we at Columbia were so eager to
understand and account for. Under such circumstances, one would think that
some signs of nerve exhaustion would be revealed. The investigation lasted
more than three hours, during which Ruth stood for most of the time, walked
up and down stairs five times, and underwent the tests in a close warm room.
At the end of that time I was tired and nervous, and, although Ruth showed
no symptoms of weariness, it is probable that under more favorable
conditions his showing would have been even better.

The tests used were ones that primarily test motor functions and give a
measure of the integrity of the psychophysical organism. Babe Ruth was posed
first in an apparatus created to determine the strength, quickness, and
approximate power of the swing of his bat against his ball. A plane covered
with electrically charges wires, strung horizontally, was placed behind him
and a ball was hung over the theoretical plate, so that it could be
suspended at any desired height.

I learned something then which, perhaps, will interest the American League
pitchers more than it will the scientists. This was that the ball Ruth likes
best to hit, and can hit hardest, is a low ball pitched just above his knees
on the outside corner of the plate. The scientists did not consider this of
extreme importance in their calculations, but the pitchers will probably
find it of great scientific interest.

Science Discovers the Secret

The ball was adjusted at the right height, and, taking up a bat that was
electrically wired, Ruth was told to get into position and to swing his bat
exactly as if striking the ball for a home run, to make the end of it touch
one of the transverse wires on the plate behind him, then swing it through
its natural arc and hit the ball lightly. The bat, weighing fifty-four
ounces (exactly the weight of the bats Ruth uses on the diamond), was swung
as directed, touched the ball, and the secret of his power -- or, rather,
the amount of force with which he strikes the ball -- was calculated. At
least, the basis of the problem was secured: The bat, weighing fifty-four
ounces, swinging at a rate of 110 feet a second, hits a ball travelling at
the rate of, say, sixty feet a second, the ball weighing four and a quarter
ounces, and striking the bat at a point four inches from the end. How far
will it travel? There are other elements [p. 21] entering into the problem,
such as the resilience of the ball, the "English" placed on it by the
pitcher's hand, and a few minor details. But the answer, as proved by the
measurements, is somewhere between 450 and 500 feet. This problem
cannot be worked down to exact figures because of the unknown quantities.

The experimenters, however, were not so much interested in the problem in
physics as they were in the problems in psychology. The thing they wanted to
know was what made Ruth superior to all other ball-players in hitting power,
rather than to measure that power.

Babe Could Beat His own Record!

Before proceeding to the psychological tests, however, we tried another in
physics to satisfy my curiosity. A harness composed of rubber tubing was
strapped around Ruth's chest and shoulders and attached by hollow tubes to a
recording cylinder. By this means his breathing was recorded on a revolving
disk. He was then placed in position to bat, an imaginary pitcher pitched an
imaginary ball, and he went through the motions of hitting a home run. The
test proved that, as a ball is pitched to him, Babe draws in his breath
sharply as he makes the back-swing with his bat, and really "holds his
breath" or suspends the operation of his breathing until after the ball is
hit. But for that fact, he would hit the ball much harder and more
effectively than he now does. It has been discovered that the act of drawing
in the breath and holding it results in a sharp tension of the muscles and a
consequent loss of striking power. If Ruth expelled his breath before
striking the ball, the muscles would not become tense and his swing would
have greater strength and rhythm.

The first test to discover the efficiency of his psychophysical organism was
one designed to try his coordination; a simple little test. The scientists
set up a triangular board, looking something like a ouija-board, with a
small round hole at each angle. At the bottom of each hole was an
electrified plate that registered every time it was touched. Ruth was
presented with a little instrument that looked like a doll-sized curling
iron, the end of which just fitted into the holes. Then he was told to take
the instrument in his right hand and jab it into the holes successively, as
often as he could in one minute, going around the board from left to right.

He grew interested at once. Here was something at which he could play. The
professor "shushed" me, fearing that I would disturb Ruth or distract his
attention as he started around the board, jabbing the curling-iron into the
holes with great rapidity. He would put it into the holes twelve to sixteen
times so perfectly that the instrument barely touched the sides. Then he
would lose control and touch the sides, slowing down. Only twice did he pass
the hole without getting the end of the iron into it. With his right hand he
made a score of 122. Not unnaturally, his wrist was tired and Babe shook it
and grinned ruefully.

Then he tried it with his left hand, scored 132 with it, proving himself a
bit more left- than right-handed -- at least in some activities. The
significance of the experiment, however, lies in the fact that the average
of hundreds of persons who have taken that test is 82 to the minute, which
shows how much swifter in the coordination of hand, brain, and eye Ruth is
than the average.

Every Test but Another Triumph

In a sequel to this test that followed, Babe tapped an electrified plate
with an electrically charged stylus with the speed of a drum-roll, scoring
193 taps per minute with his right hand and 176 with his left hand. The
average score for right-handed persons undergoing this wrist-wracking
experiment is 180, and, while there is no data covering right-handed persons
using the left hand, it is certain that Ruth's record is much above the
average, as he is highly efficient with the left hand.

But steadiness must accompany speed and so they tested the home-run king for
his steadiness of nerve and muscle by having [p. 110] him thrust the useful
little curling-iron stylus in different-sized holes pierced through an
electrified plate which registered contacts between the stylus and the side
of the hole. These measured respectively sixteen, eleven, nine, eight, and
seven sixty-fourths of an inch; small enough, but not too small for Babe,
for he made a score that showed him better than 499 persons out of 500.

The tests that interested me most were those to determine how quickly Ruth's
eye acts and how quickly its signals are flashed through the brain to the
muscles. Showing an amazingly quick reaction time, they interpreted what
happens on the ball-field when the stands rock under the cheering that
greets another of Ruth's smashes to the fence, proved an eye so quick that
it sees the ball make an erratic curve and guides the bat to follow.

The scientists discovered exactly how quickly Ruth's eye functions by
placing him in a dark cabinet, setting into operation a series of rapidly
flashing bulbs and listening to the tick of an electric key by which he
acknowledged the flashes.

The average man responds to the stimulus of the light in 180 one thousandths
of a second. Babe Ruth needs only 160 one thousandths of a second. There is
the same significance in the fact that Babe's response to the stimulus of
sound comes 140 one thousandths of a second as against the averages man's
150 thousandths.

Human beings differ very slightly in these sight and sound tests, or rather
the fractions are so small that they seem inexpressive; yet a difference of
20 or 10 one thousandths of a second indicates a superiority of the highest
importance.

Translate the findings of the sight test into baseball if you want to see
what they mean in Babe Ruth's case. They mean that a pitcher must throw a
ball 20 one thousandths of a second faster to "fool" Babe than to "fool" the
average person.

If the results of these tests at Columbia are a revelation to us, who know
Ruth as a fast thinking player, they must be infinitely more amazing to the
person who only comes into contact with the big fellow off the diamond and
finds him unresponsive and even slow when some non-professional topic in
under discussion.

The scientific "ivory hunters" up at Columbia demonstrated that Babe Ruth
would have been the "home-run king" in almost any line of activity he chose
to follow; that his brain would have won equal success for him had he
drilled it for as long a time on some line entirely foreign to the national
game. They did it, just as they proved his speed and his steadiness -- by
simple laboratory tests.

For instance, they had an apparatus with a sort of a camera shutter
arrangement that opened, winked, and closed at any desired speed. Cards with
letters of the alphabet on them were placed behind this shutter and exposed
to view for one fifty-thousandth of a second. Ruth read them as they flashed
into view, calling almost instantly the units of groups of three, four,
five, and six letters. With eight shown he got the first six, and was
uncertain of the others. The average person can see four and one half
letters on the same test.

When cards marked with black dots were used, Ruth was even faster. He called
up the number of dots on every card up to twelve without one mistake, The
average person can see eight.

To test him for quickness of perception and understanding, he was given a
card showing five different symbols -- a star, a cross, and three other
shapes -- many times repeated, and was told to select a number -- one, two,
three, four, or five -- for each symbol, then to mark the selected number
under each one as rapidly as he could go over the card. He scored 103 hits
on that test, which his the average of all who have tried it. But when given
a card covered with printed matter and told to cross out all the a's, he
made a score of sixty, which is one and a half times the average.

The secret of Babe Ruth's ability to hit is clearly revealed in these tests.
His eye, his ear, his brain, his nerves all function more rapidly than do
those of the average person. Further the coordination between eye, ear,
brain, and muscle is much nearer perfection than that of the normal healthy
man.

The scientific "ivory hunters" dissecting the "home-run king" discovered
brain instead of bone, and showed how little mere luck, or even mere hitting
strength, has to do with Ruth's phenomenal record.
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Old 10-06-2006, 05:35 AM   #17
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The author of this weblog offers some tremendous insights into Ruth as a player and a man.

Quote:
Response to Dayn Perry's article directing us not to wax nostalgic about Babe Ruth

May 12, 2006 | 11:25PM |

I saw Perry's article a few days ago, but dismissed it because it is full
of misleading information and misinformation. However, when I saw a friend
cite the article in an internet baseball forum, I felt a duty to respond.

Perry makes a few valid points, like the one about the all-white
competition. But mostly his comments are ill-informed opinion supported by
little or no fact, which I'll attempt to demonstrate here. For example,
Perry wrote:

>>For instance, imagine the kind of stats, say, Lance Berkman could put up
if he never had to face a Pedro Martinez, a Dontrelle Willis, a Johan
Santana, a Carlos Zambrano or a Mariano Rivera ...<<

This comparison is foolish. These guys weren't alive when Ruth played. A
fair comparison is with the top non-anglo/caucasian talent of the time
period in which Ruth lived.

>>... and never had the likes of Andruw Jones, Torii Hunter or Mike Cameron
turning doubles into fly outs.<<

No, but he had Harry Hooper and Tris Speaker turning doubles into fly outs
with little tiny gloves instead of giant leather baskets. And outfields
were far more cavernous in those days. I've never before seen anyone argue
that the discrepancy amongst fielders then and now is anything like the
discrepancy amongst hitters and pitchers then and now. This is the first
time I've ever seen such a silly assertion.

Then there is the Jim Crow issue, which has been anaylzed in depth on
SABR-L. Perry omits at least three important points pertinent to the issue:

1) football and basketball were far less developed sports in those days,
so that the best athletes of the period - anglo/caucasian and
non-anglo/caucasian athletes - tended to gravitate to baseball.

2) It is a statistical fallacy to assume that the percentage of the most
superior non-anglo/caucasian athletes of Ruth's day was the same as the
percentage of the top non-anglo/caucasian athletes of today. If anything,
the percentage (of the total number of non-anglo/caucasian athletes) of
the most superior non-anglo/caucasian athletes in Ruth's day was greater,
meaning that the non-anglo/caucasian talent pool at that time wasn't as
large; further meaning that the competition - had integration existed -
wouldn't come close to what it is today. Baseball's development in Hispanic
America and Asia still was primitive.

There is no question that had Ruth regularly hit against Bullet Joe Rogan,
Satchel Paige, Rube Foster and the like, he very well may not have fared
as well as he did against the likes of Bill Sherdel, Flint Rhem, and Jesse
Haines. However, he almost certainly would have fattened up on the many
lesser pitching lights in the Negro Leagues since the variability of Negro
League pitching talent (differences between top and bottom) was much
greater then than now, and greater as well for the anglo/caucasian talent
of Ruth's time. This point was argued well by the late professor Stephen
Jay Gould in his classic article on why it's unlikely we'll ever see another
.400 hitter.

3) It is well-acknowledged that Ruth was an extraordinarily gifted hitter.
See article in above post.

What this rather long article underscores is that it is highly probable that
if Ruth could hit the likes of Lefty Grove, Walter johnson, Grover
Alexander, Stan Coveleski, and Eddie Cicotte, he more than likely also
could have hit Satchel Paige, Bullet Joe Rogan, Rube Foster, Bob
Poindexter, and William Bell.

That addresses much of Perry's misleading information. Now for the
misinformation.

>>In the statistical sense, Ruth is overvalued. The lefty-swinging Ruth
benefited greatly from an inviting right-field porch (once called
"Ruthville") in Yankee Stadium, where he played his home games from 1920
through 1934. Back then, the right-field line was only 295 feet from home
plate, and it was only 350 feet to straightaway right field. Contrast
those with the current dimensions of Yankee: 314 feet down the line and
353 to straightaway. Yankee Stadium, over the last three full seasons,
inflated the home-run rates of left-handed batters by seven percent. While
we don't have the necessary data to get the figures from Ruth's day, it's
safe to assume that Yankee Stadium back then was even more beneficial to
lefty power hitters. So his numbers need to be discounted accordingly.<<

That all depends on what Perry means by "accordingly". If Perry actually
goes by Ruth's home vs. away splits, then "accordingly" means Ruth's
numbers require an upward adjustment, because he hit more home runs on the
road than he did in Yankee Stadium. Ruth hit 49% of his homeruns from
1923 - 1932 Yankee Stadium (the fences were changed in YS in 1933) and
51% on the road. Lou Gehrig hit 46% of his HRs in YS during that
span. All other left-handed hitters, Yankees or non-Yankees, hit
two-thirds of their homeruns in Yankee Stadium. Look at the following:

>>From 1923-32, left-handed Yankees hit 52% of their home runs at home,
while their visitors hit 69% of their HRs against them there - a striking
contrast. During those years, Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig accounted for 78%
of Yankee LHB home runs (722 of 923) and hit slightly more home runs on
the road, while the other left-handers hit two-thirds of their home runs
at Yankee Stadium (see Table 6.7). As pre-eminent sluggers, Ruth and
Gehrig were less park-determined.<< --Michael Schell

These data were sent to me by Michael Schell, author of Baseball's
All-Time Best Sluggers. Michael Schell is a Professor of Biostatistics at
the University of North Carolina. His book is carefully researched, with
attention to the minute details of park
factors, home-away splits, and playing era in his analyses.

What Schell's findings mean in this context is that Ruth and Gehrig hit such
prodigious homeruns that they received no special benefit from the 295'
foul line. Ruth homers typically were towering fly balls anyway. But this
is an example of where a little bit of knowledge can be a dangerous thing.
Perry knows about the Yankee Stadium foul line in those days, and he knows
that lefties enjoyed a general benefit from that foul line, so he assumes
Ruth experienced that same benefit, which therefore discounts the value of
the homeruns Ruth hit "accordingly". But because Perry didn't know about
the unique splits of Ruth (and Gehrig), Perry simply fooled himself,
along with a few thousand readers.

>>There are also the moral failings of Ruth to be considered. Bonds these
days is subjected to (entirely warranted) scrutiny, ridicule and dismissal
because of his alleged cheating. However, Ruth was anything but an angel
in his day.<<

This is a completely spurious argument. Ruth's moral failings - excessive
appetites for women, food, drink, and tobacco - were common to his era,
and arguably undergird the way he is celebrated as a hero, because he rose
from a horrific childhood to become adored internationally not only due to
his athletic successes, but because of the kind of person he became. Ty
Cobb was arguably as or more successful a baseball player than Ruth, yet he
wasn't adored. Ruth was charitable, noted for his frequent fundraisers for
orphanages and visits to hospitals to see sick kids (these are documented
facts), and reformed himself from womanizing after his second marriage. He
did train in the off-season to get himself into playing shape. He was one
of the first players to have a personal trainer, Artie McGovern of
McGovern's Gym. He was accessible, approachable, kind-hearted, and not
one to hold a grudge.

Perry's arguments don't make sense even given the realities of Ruth's life
and times, but when looked at in the context of a person like Barry Bonds,
who is utterly impervious to the opinions of teammates, fans, and the
media alike, one wonders what sort of point Perry is trying to make.

Most importantly for this discussion, it isn't like Ruth's vices helped him
pad his numbers. If Ruth trained like today's players and took Hgh, andro,
ThG, Provigil, and the rubbing balms and flaxseed oils used by Bonds,
does it not make sense that his numbers would have been even more stupendous
than they were? All I can say here is that this is a fatuous and
self-serving argument by Perry that backfires in his face.

>>While it's a bit too hindsighty to skewer Ruth for not rising above the
mores of his time, he did gleefully participate in - and get rich off of -
the racist construct that was organized professional baseball. It's fair
to hold that tacit approval against him to a limited degree.<<

Frankly - and this isn't something I say often - this comment is stupid.
Literally. It betrays a likelihood that Perry never has read a reputable
biography of Ruth. For "his time", Ruth was one of the most accepting,
unbigoted players in the game.

>>... it was rumored that a 1925 illness was the result of a runaway case of
gonorrhea.<<

Right - this was a rumor, and roundly discredited by several biographers
who established that he had surgery for an intestinal abscess. (See, for
example, biographies by Creamer, Smelser, and Wagenheim. Smelser was a
professional historian.) There were no antibiotics then. If Ruth had had
VD he never would have gotten rid of it. He likely never could have
played again. Repeating this canard is a vile act by Perry, who appears to
overreach the bounds of ethical propriety in his effort to persuade a naive
readership of an opinion he doesn't wish contradicted by inconvenient facts.
I can't respect a writer like this.

Mark
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Old 10-06-2006, 05:37 AM   #18
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This passage in particular details the way Ruth's legend has been somewhat distorted over time.

Quote:
This is a completely spurious argument. Ruth's moral failings - excessive
appetites for women, food, drink, and tobacco - were common to his era,
and arguably undergird the way he is celebrated as a hero, because he rose
from a horrific childhood to become adored internationally not only due to
his athletic successes, but because of the kind of person he became. Ty
Cobb was arguably as or more successful a baseball player than Ruth, yet he
wasn't adored. Ruth was charitable, noted for his frequent fundraisers for
orphanages and visits to hospitals to see sick kids (these are documented
facts), and reformed himself from womanizing after his second marriage. He
did train in the off-season to get himself into playing shape. He was one
of the first players to have a personal trainer, Artie McGovern of
McGovern's Gym. He was accessible, approachable, kind-hearted, and not
one to hold a grudge.
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Old 10-06-2006, 05:38 AM   #19
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Old 10-06-2006, 05:40 AM   #20
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interesting. I wonder if Bonds would under go some scientific experiments so we could see why he hits so many home runs
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Old 10-06-2006, 05:41 AM   #21
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Old 10-06-2006, 05:46 AM   #22
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Albert Pujols took the Babe Ruth tests.

St. Louis Cardinals slugger Pujols gets Babe Ruth test at Washington University

By Gerry Everding

Aug. 22, 2006 -- Baseball purists, especially those of Yankee allegiance, might argue that St. Louis Cardinals homerun-hitting superstar Albert Pujols is simply not in the same league as legendary New York Yankees slugger Babe Ruth.

It's an argument that science may never fully resolve, but researchers at Washington University in St. Louis can now offer at least some hard numbers on how Pujols compares to the Babe in terms of the perceptual and motor skills necessary to consistently hit balls out of the park.

Pujols visited Washington University in April to take part in a series of laboratory tests similar to those conducted on Babe Ruth on a summer afternoon in 1921 by a couple of graduate students at Columbia University. Results of the Pujols testing, conducted at the request of a reporter from GQ magazine, are detailed in a story that appears in the magazine's September issue.

"This spring, GQ persuaded Albert Pujols, reigning National League MVP and the game's most dominant slugger, to take time off from an epic home-run tear and reenact, at Washington University in St. Louis, the 1921 Babe Ruth tests," writes Nate Penn, author of the GQ article, which is titled "Performance: How To Build The Perfect Batter."


El Hombre vs. The Babe: Pujols swings
a bat in the lab of Catherine Lang, assistant
professor in physical therapy.

The Pujols tests were conducted by faculty in the University's Department of Psychology in Arts & Sciences and in the School of Medicine, including Richard Abrams, Ph.D., professor of psychology; Desiree White, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology; David Balota, Ph.D., professor of psychology; and Catherine Lang, Ph.D., assistant professor of physical therapy, neurology and occupational therapy.

Pujols, like Ruth, was asked to demonstrate his hitting form while hooked up to various machines that monitored the strength and speed of his swing. Pujols, complaining of a strained back, may have "held himself back a bit" on some of the tests, but his results compared favorably with those of Ruth.

In terms of sheer batting speed, Pujols swung his preferred 31.5-ounce bat at a speed of 86.99 miles per hour. Ruth, on the other hand, using a 54-ounce bat, swung at an estimated speed of 75 miles an hour.

"Making exact comparisons between the Pujols and Ruth test results is difficult because the tests given to Ruth were not very well normed," suggests White. "But it's clear that both Ruth and Pujols performed well above average on a number of tests that are very similar in nature."

The New York Times covered the Ruth testing on Sept. 11, 1921, with a front-page headline: "RUTH SUPERNORMAL, SO HE HITS HOMERUNS." The test results were described in a 1921 issue of "Popular Science" magazine as a "revelation" that showed Ruth's "coordination of eye, brain, nerve system, and muscle [to be] practically perfect."

Looking back on the 1921 Popular Science article, which is available, online, WUSTL's Richard Abrams suggests that the author of the magazine article was clearly a big fan of Ruth's and that this may have colored his description of the test results.

"Re-reading the 1921 article today I found that Babe Ruth really was not 'off the charts' on most of the tasks studied - instead it was reported merely that he was some amount faster or better than average," Abrams said.

"In only one case in the 1921 article were percentiles reported. As a result, we really don't know how great Babe was at these tasks. It is clear, though, that the author of the 1921 article was strongly biased to suggest that Babe achieved extreme scores on most of the tasks."

While the media may have exaggerated Ruth's results, few modern psychologists would find fault with the array of tests Columbia used to probe Ruth's talents with a bat, many of which are still used today. The science behind Ruth's 1921 tests is examined in great detail in an article titled "Psychology and 'The Babe'" published in a 1998 issue of the Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences, also available online.

Both Ruth and Pujols participated in a number of standard psychological lab tests, such as pegboard and finger tapping exercises, designed to gauge motor skills and cognitive performance.

White, who administers these tests frequently as part of her research and clinical work, was especially surprised by Pujols' performance on two tests in particular, a finger-tapping exercise that measures gross motor performance and a letter cancellation task that measures ability to conduct rapid searches of the environment to locate a specific target.

Asked to place a mark through a specific letter each time it appeared on a page of randomly positioned letters, Pujols used a search strategy that White had never witnessed in 18 years of administering the test.

"What was remarkable about Mr. Pujols' performance was not his speed but his unique visual search strategy," White said. "Most people search for targets on a page from left to right, much as they would when reading. In observing Mr. Pujols' performance, I initially thought he was searching randomly. As I watched, however, I realized that he was searching as if the page were divided into sectors. After locating a single target within a sector, he moved to another sector. Only after locating a single target within each sector, did he return to previously searched sectors and continue his scan for additional targets."

Asked to depress a tapper with his index finger as many times as possible in 10 seconds, Pujols scored in the 99th percentile, a score almost identical to one earned by Ruth on a similar test of movement speed and endurance. White was impressed not only by Pujols' tapping speed (2.4 standard deviations faster than normal), but also by the fact that his performance kept improving after repeated trials.

"It was interesting that he actually tapped faster in later trials of the task, suggesting considerable stamina at a high level of performance," White noted. "Most people tap somewhat slower as the test progresses because their fingers and hands begin to fatigue."

Pujols tapped with such force, in fact, that, at one point, he actually knocked the tapping key out of alignment. Pujols then helped White repair the finger tapper, tightening a loosened screw with his fingernail, she said.

Pujols' ability to make split-second modifications in a planned response, such as checking his swing at the last moment when a pitch strays outside the strike zone, was tested using a standard psychological test known as a go/no-go task. Pujols was given a visual "go' signal requiring him to respond as quickly as possible by pushing a button; occasionally, the initial signal would be followed by a "stop" signal requiring him to inhibit the response, if possible.

The Pujols tests, researchers suggest, represent just a small sampling of what secrets modern science might be able to uncover regarding the mysteries of superior performance in homerun hitting, and sports in general.

Yogi Berra, a St. Louis native who starred for many years as a catcher on the New York Yankees, has been quoted as saying that "baseball is 90 percent mental. The other half is physical."

Perhaps, like this and other "Yogiisms", the mysteries of baseball will defy the reason and logic of science. But researchers at Washington University are willing to take that challenge.

"We already know that Albert Pujols is a great baseball player -- we can see that every day on the field," Abrams said. "What we don't know is whether laboratory measures of cognitive, perceptual, and motor abilities will help us predict who the next Pujols or Ruth will be. It sure could be fun to find out."

Quote:


Pujols' ability to move his eyes in response to visual stimuli was measured using a specialized video camera and an infrared light source, which tracked the exact location of his pupil and how long it takes him to move his eyes from one location to another.

In this test, Pujols was asked to make a single rapid eye movement (a "saccade") from a central fixation point to a peripheral target. In some trials, he was asked to look in the opposite direction - away from - the target when it appears, an "anti-saccade" movement.

"This task measures the speed of orienting the eye to visual targets and also the ability to inhibit the natural response to a stimulus and instead make the desired response, the anti-saccade movement," explains Abrams.

Pujols scored well above average on the saccade and anti saccade tests. His reaction time was 16 milliseconds faster than average for the saccades and 18 milliseconds faster than average for antisaccades.
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Old 10-06-2006, 05:53 AM   #23
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Some pictures of Ruth with Ty Cobb.

Cobb was insanely jealous of Babe's unsurpassed popularity and the two men were far from friendly.





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Old 10-06-2006, 05:58 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Atlas View Post
interesting. I wonder if Bonds would under go some scientific experiments so we could see why he hits so many home runs
Don't you mean "submit urine sample" instead?

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Old 10-06-2006, 06:02 AM   #25
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The Babe and Teddy Ballgame



Talking hitting with Shoeless Joe Jackson
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