“Every big leaguer and his wife should teach their children to pray, God bless Mommy, God bless Daddy and God bless Babe Ruth.”

Waite Hoyt (1899-1984), Hall of Fame pitcher and a teammate of Ruth’s, and later a broadcaster for the Cincinnati Reds

Ladies and gentlemen, when George Herman “Babe” Ruth Jr. was a child, he spent nearly a dozen years in an orphanage and reformatory for boys. As an adult, the Babe suggested that as a lad, not only had he been running the streets of Baltimore and rarely attending school, he was drinking beer when his father, who ran a saloon, was not looking.

So at the age of 7, he was sent to the St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys. While at the reformatory, Ruth played baseball in organized leagues, where he became St. Mary’s best pitcher and was even recognized by the local press for both his pitching prowess and his ability to crush long home runs.

In 1914, at age of 19, he was signed by the Baltimore Orioles to play minor league ball, but due to financial woes, the franchise had to sell off some of its best players and sold the Bambino to the Boston Red Sox that season.

The Cincinnati Reds, along with the New York Giants, had expressed interest in Ruth, but ultimately the future superstar was shipped to Boston. Imagine if Babe Ruth had been a Cincinnati Red. Can you picture it?

Ruth played for the Red Sox from 1914 to 1919, but the day after Christmas in 1919, Boston sold Ruth’s contract to the New York Yankees.

What a present that turned out to be. With the Yanks, the Babe’s transition from pitcher to hitter became complete, and Ruth clubbed a whopping 54 homers in 1920 while hitting .376, and after smacking home runs left and right to start the 1921 season, it attracted the attention of famous sportswriter and Hillsboro native Hugh Fullerton.

In fact, even though Babe Ruth was just 26 years old and had been a full-time hitter for a relatively short time, in 1921 “The Sultan of Swat” eclipsed the big league career home run record, which had been 138.

That prompted Fullerton to take Ruth from the ballpark, still in his Yankees uniform, to Columbia University for scientific testing to get the “secret” as to why the Bambino was the “greatest home run hitter.”

Fullerton wrote that scientific researchers 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.

Fullerton surmised, “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.”

Ruth had set the single-season home run record with 54 dingers in 1920, and Fullerton predicted in his magazine article that the Bambino could beat his own record – which he did in 1921 with 59 home runs, and then hit 60 homers in 1927. In his 15 seasons with the Yankees, the Babe helped New York win four World Series titles and seven American League championships.

Remember, he hit his 139th career homer in 1921, which put him at No. 1 on the all-time list – and he hit nearly 600 more home runs after that.

Ruth finished his career with 714 homers, 2,213 runs batted in, a .342 batting average and walked 2,062 times while striking out just 1,330 times. His career slugging percentage (.690) is a record that still stands today, more than eight decades since the Babe’s final big league at-bat.

And in 1921, Hugh Fullerton wrote that it was Babe Ruth’s mind, not his body, which made it all possible.

“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.”

Fullerton wrote. “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.”

On opening day of 1923, Babe Ruth hit the first home run in Yankee Stadium, “The House That Ruth Built.”

“I was glad to have hit the first home run in this park. God only knows who will hit the last,” the Babe wondered after that game.

It turns out the answer was Jose Molina, who hit a home run in the final game at Yankee Stadium on Sept. 21, 2008. The Babe’s daughter, Julia Ruth Stevens (who is now 101 years old), threw out the ceremonial first pitch that day.

After the final out, Yankees great Derek Jeter took the microphone and gave an impromptu speech, “For all of us up here, it’s a huge honor to put this uniform on every day and come out here and play. And every member of this organization, past and present, has been calling this place home for 85 years. There’s a lot of tradition, a lot of history, and a lot of memories. And we are relying on you to take the memories from this stadium, add them to the new memories that come at the new Yankee Stadium and continue to pass them on from generation to generation.”

Let’s pause for now, and we’ll continue next week.

Steve Roush is a vice president of an international media company and a columnist and contributing writer for The Highland County Press. He can be reached by email at roush_steve@msn.com.