My most recent what if just added to the Texas Sports Column. What if by chance the most iconic American Athlete perhaps of all time, is adopted and never gets into baseball... ------------------------------------------------------------------------ We are in the midst of Yankee Stadiums last hurrah. In honor of the House that Ruth Built, here is another Texas Sports Column What If. In 1902 a seven year old kid named Babe Ruth was taken by his parent to St. Mary’s Industrial school for Boys. In addition to being a catholic school it also served as an orphanage. Ruth’s parent’s worked long hours at lower-middle class jobs and simply had no time to take care of him. The young Ruth showed enthusiasm towards baseball and hoped to work with Brother Matthias who was knowledgeable in the game. However the young man was adopted within weeks and little was known since then. In real life that kid would grown up in baseball, sign a minor league contract with the Baltimore Orioles, move up to the Red Sox, get traded to the Yankees, and the rest is history. But who likes real life, especially when it involves the Yanks? There are three major questions that need to be asked if Ruth, a global sports icon to this day, is suddenly removed. First of all, what happens to the Yankees? Was Ruth the cornerstone to turning around their fortunes and his loss would turn them into a cross between the Cubs and Dodgers or would they have reached the pinnacle of sport anyways? Secondly what happens to the game of baseball? Undoubtedly the game would survive, but would it be nearly as popular, and would another franchise replace the Yankees as the super dynasty of American sport? Lastly where would thing stand today had Ruth not laid the foundation for modern day baseball? As fun as it would be to say that the Yankees entire success and future hinged on the acquisition of Ruth from the Sox, it really wasn’t. The Yankees foundation was laid by stereotypical early 1900’s named men, Colonel Jacob Ruppert and Captain Tillinghast L'Hommedieu Huston. They brought the deep pockets and insight to turn the Yankees from fourth string NYC scrubs to the jewel of the MLB. Under the manager Mike Huggins and GM Ed Barrow, Barrow coming from the Sox as well and being arguably just as great a steal as Ruth but don’t tell that to Yankee fans, the Yankees would thrive no matter what, at least enough to crawl out of the New York City cellar and away from the mythical giant rats and alligators. But Ruth provided the Yankees with something that managers and better everyday players couldn’t, entertainment. As a team the Yankees won pennant after pennant, but Ruth alone drew the massive crowds and hit the record amounts of homers. Why is Yankee stadium known as the house that Ruth built? Because only Ruth could sell it’s unprecedented 58,000 seats. Without him, the Yanks are still sharing the Polo Grounds with the Giants, and simply can’t hang in the sheer number of pennant races and World Series they participated in, in real life. Ruth was the centerpiece of seven AL pennants and four Yankee World Series victories in 1923, 1927, 1928, and 1932. Taking away Ruth and his big bat, we know the Yankees collapse without him in the lineup as shown by his extended absence in 1925 the same year the Yankees went from perennial AL elite team to second to last. Looking at old box scores and standings (Thanks Wikipedia!) the Yankees without Ruth would realistically only be able to win the AL in 1923, 1927, and 1932. In 1923 they fall to the Giants, ensuring the Giant’s supremacy over New York City. The Yankees do however win in 1927 with the murder’s row lineup (even without Ruth that’s a really good line up) and in 1932 against the cursed Cubs. Regardless of Ruth’s involvement, in 1923, a young Lou Gehrig joins the Yankees, giving the club their first major hall of famer and face of the franchise. What’s interesting is would Gehrig’s death in 1941, which forced him to retire early two years before, be looked by Yankee fans as less a celebration of life and more of a curse of the Yankees? Remember in our little Ruthless universe the Yankees and their fans aren’t all cocky and confident from repeated success, just like everyone, else they see there team for what it is; a scrub team for decades with some recent success but always missing that one key piece of the puzzle that could lead them to the promised land. Ladies and gentlemen without Babe Ruth. Yankees fans become a hybrid of Pre-2004 Red Sox fans and Aggie Fans! While the Yankees have good ownership, without Ruth they lack the massively deep pockets to create the best scouting system in America, not to mention the sheer clustering of luck that seemingly follows the franchise around. Without a deep nationwide scouting system the Yankees are sure to miss out on two of their greats; Joe DiMaggio who was playing minor league ball in San Francisco and Mickey Mantel who played minor league in Kansas. Yogi Berra plays minor league ball with the Yankee’s affiliate so he’s a Yank no matter what. Thurmon Munson and Whitey Ford, who played in the New York area, will go to highest bidder, one of which will undoubtedly be the NYC dominant Giants. In our little alternate Universe DiMaggio will most likely go to one of the dominant MLB teams, the Giants or Red Sox. Let’s say Boston. Mantel will probably end up a Chicago Cub or White Sox, or maybe even in St. Louis because of the Midwest roots, let’s say the Cubs to make things interesting. Munson will be a Yank and Ford will be a Giant in this timeline to round things out. With the Yankee greats effectively scattered, there is simply no way the Yankees become a viable dynasty like they are from 1921 to 1962. At this point there are too many possibilities to accurately predict what would happen but broadly speaking, it’s the Giants who become the dominant New York team while the Yankees and Dodgers flee to the West Coast. Giant’s ownership is historically sketchy and Hank Steinbrenner wouldn’t be scrambling to buy either club (It would be interesting to see where he lands though.). In the long run there simply is no major NYC dynasty of any kind, though the Giants win out the race to be the best team in the city and will have more titles than the Yankees in the long run. But what happens to the game overall? Apart from being an icon and entertainer, Ruth changed the game fundamentally by introducing the live ball era and making baseball a game of power instead of speed. The change to a power game is inevitable as players will get bigger and stronger over the years and someone will inherit Ruth’s position as the Sultan of Swat. Roger’s Hornsby would be the first big home run hitter in our minds today but in my opinion the new Sultan of Swat would be either Ted Williams or Mickey Mantle. Baseball was popular in America without the home run but with it, it exploded in popularity. In this universe maybe football captures the public’s hearts earlier with a delayed explosion in baseball’s popularity, but that is asking a lot from the fractured NFL. In a game without Ruth I would venture to say that the game wouldn’t be much different than today, though records would be much different and it would be interesting to see which team would take advantage of their deep pockets and the free agent era. The main rivalry in American sport would almost certainly be Boston Red Sox vs. New York Giants and the game’s history would be interesting as well. Instead of one singular dynasty flowing in an almost complete line from 1921 to now, there would be many small dynasties of a few years with the Giants or Red Sox or Cardinals having the most success. In the end the broad game stays the same but the details and histories of individual teams and players would be much different. All because some kid in Baltimore got adopted.