Tom Brady’s retirement from the NFL sparked a nice debate this week, as MLB Network’s Jon Heyman asked an interesting question: who had the greatest career in the four major North American team sports?
He said Babe Ruth (MLB) ranked first, followed by Brady (NFL), Wayne Gretzky (NHL) and Michael Jordan (NBA), in that order.
So now that the Brady retirement is official, who had the greatest career in the 4 major North American team sports? I’d rank it 1. Babe Ruth 2. Brady 3. Wayne Gretzky 4. Michael Jordan (the reason MJ is 4th is the gap for NBA’s best is smaller w/cases for Kareem, Russell, LeBron
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) February 1, 2022
Opinions about his ranking may range from accurate to crazy, but that’s the beauty of sports: much of it is subjective.
However, it’s fair to ask ourselves another question: who had the greatest MLB career of all time?
Was it really Ruth?
Let’s examine the situation.
There Are Plenty Of Candidates
Barry Bonds earned an all-time high seven MVP awards and broke the two most prominent hitting records in the history of the league: most career home runs (762) and most homers in a single season (73, in 2001).
Ted Williams is one of the finest hitters in history, and should have won more MVP awards.
He wasn’t the press favorite, though, and he missed multiple years while serving in World War II.
Willie Mays was a symbol for many, and he accumulated incredible totals: 660 home runs, 2,062 runs, 1,903 RBI, and 338 stolen bases while playing with an aura of greatness that just can’t be put into words.
Cy Young won 511 games as a pitcher and could have as good of a case as anyone for the best MLB career, while Randy Johnson, Roger Clemens, and Greg Maddux are modern aces in a much more competitive era.
No one, however, had a greatest career than Ruth.
This is not to say that Ruth is the unquestioned G.O.A.T (greatest of all time), because competition back in his playing days was much different than what we see now.
Ruth Changed The Game
However, he changed the game: he got incredible numbers, he was much, much better than his peers, and he became the symbol of baseball for decades.
Oh, and if Mays had an aura of greatness, words cannot describe the fear Ruth instilled in pitchers.
He was only a two-time All-Star (1933, 1934) because the game was inaugurated in 1933 and his career started in the 1910s.
However, he is the proud owner of seven World Series rings (1915, 1916, 1918, 1923, 1927, 1928, 1932), an AL MVP award (1923), a batting crown (1924), and led MLB in home runs 12 times (1918–1921, 1923, 1924, 1926–1931).
He also led the American League in RBI five times and had the lowest ERA (yes, he was an ace before he was traded to the Yankees) in 1916.
The Yankees retired his number 3.
In 1920, when he got to the Yankees, he led the league with 54 homers: the live ball era was born.
The most impressive fact, however, was not that he led the circuit in long balls: the second-ranked played, George Sisler, finished with 19.
Ruth retired with an incredible .342 batting average, 2,873 hits, 714 home runs, and 2,214 RBI.
As a pitcher, he has a 94–46 record and an excellent 2.28 ERA.
The 60 home runs he hit in 1927 weren’t passed by anyone until Roger Maris did it in 1961.
Shohei Ohtani on being compared to Babe Ruth:
“Obviously I’ve never seen him play. But I’ve read about him a lot. He’s a legendary figure. It’s a huge honor. All I can do is try my best and see how my season and career plays out”
— Ben Verlander (@BenVerlander) July 12, 2021
When we consider his place among the greatest, his numbers, his records, and the way he dominated in his time, we can say Ruth had the most impressive MLB career of all time.