Skip to main content

Left Field

June 2024
1min read


Roger Kahn is a wonderful writer, but I think he’s out in left field with his opinions that “Ruth today is partly a product of Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa” and “baseball has always worked the Babe Ruth shtick” (“A Sporting Life,” October). Comparing the gate at Jack Dempsey’s fights with Ruth’s annual salaries, he contends that Dempsey, not Ruth, created bigtime sports in America. Sadly, it is still true that fight gate revenues are greater than a great ballplayer’s salary; Ruth did not enjoy free agency. But for what he did for baseball, all baseball salaries need be credited to him.

Better to look at the influence of the athlete. Dominating our dreams is one way. How many young men dreamed of becoming a prizefighter, and how many a baseball player? In the dreamworld of the newsreel and picture magazine, Ruth again dominated. The casual fan knows many of his records. Ruth’s impact, in fact, cannot be overrated. In attempts to demoralize our soldiers in World War II, Japanese troops would yell, “To hell with Babe Ruth!” Indeed his impact may be felt regularly in our own language. The “out in left field” that Mr. Kahn occupies is itself a Ruthian legacy. From his fielding position, Ruth would often chat with the fans nearby. As a left-handed hitter he usually pulled his home runs to the same area of the stands. So it was the wise boy who bought a ticket for the right-field bleachers to catch a homer or speak to the Bambino; otherwise he would be “out in left field.”

Enjoy our work? Help us keep going.

Now in its 75th year, American Heritage relies on contributions from readers like you to survive. You can support this magazine of trusted historical writing and the volunteers that sustain it by donating today.

Donate