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Thread: Cricket and Baseball, Introductory question: Who is cricket's "Babe Ruth"?

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    Ike
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    Cricket and Baseball, Introductory question: Who is cricket's "Babe Ruth"?

    I'm new to the forum (which I very much appreciate!) and I've been warned not to go around saying aspects of cricket should be changed to be more like baseballl (heaven forbid! that would truly be sacrilege). But I love baseball, being a Yank and having followed baseball for over 60 years now. But I also love cricket. I don't want to see either game become in any way more like the other. But I do love both games and because of that, I find it fascinating to compare differences between the two, and the consequences those differences have. I'd love to see a sub forum just for "cricket and baseball", but I suspect there are not enough folks familiar with or interested enough in baseball to justify that.

    Anyway, I'd like to start with a question that one of my sons and I strongly disagree on. In baseball, Babe Ruth has a unique position. He was widely considered the best baseball player ever during his own time, and many today still consider him the best ever, though many now say he has been surpassed (by Mays or Aaron or Bonds, etc.), and objectively, virtually all of his single season and career records have been broken. However, there is general agreement that he stood out from his contemporaries statistically more than any other player before or after.

    So, who in cricket's history stands out in the most similar way? My son says Bradman, because he was the greatest cricketer yet seen, with the most impressive stats, especially in Tests. I wouldn't argue the point about stats, but I'm sure that Grace is the true parallel to Ruth, because he was the first "super star" (an Americanism? I don't know, apologies if it is) of cricket. His stats don't match Bradman's, in part because Test cricket only started well into his career, and there were very few Tests during his career at all; in part, he may not have been nearly as outstanding a player as Bradman (I don't know enough to say). But he did stand out from his contemporaries, I believe, more than any other player before or since, and this is exactly what Ruth did.

    As it happens, Bradman and Ruth played at the same time. In fact, as I learned from the flawed but fascinating book Flannels on the Sward (by Jayesh Patel), Bradman and Ruth met each other in New York in 1932, while (that should be whilst here, I guess?) Bradman was touring Canada with an Australian team (pp. 77-78; there is a whole book on this, Sissons' "Don Meets the Babe", but I haven't seen it yet). But when you compare the histories of cricket and baseball, I think Grace and Ruth are placed in similar positions in their sports' histories, much moreso than Bradman and Ruth. Based on what I've read in Major's More Than a Game, meaningful crickets stats begin around 1800, and become 'comprehensive' somewhere between 1820-1850. Of course, Grace played primarily from about 1865-1900. Baseball stats begin around 1870, and become 'comprehensive' around 1880, and Ruth played from 1914-1935. Thus both players flourished after statistics had become widespread (and so, popular interest in each game had also become widespread), but while statistics were still 'young'.

    Anyway, I'd love to learn the opinion and perspective of those who know cricket history the way many Americans know baseball history, and who have at least a general idea of Ruth's position in baseball history.

    edit: P.S. If the moderators feel this thread belongs is some other forum, please move it. This is just my best guess of where it should go.

    2nd edit: corrected the spelling of Bradman throughout.
    Last edited by Ike; 23-02-2014 at 08:44 AM. Reason: gross spelling correction. Thank you, Prince EWS

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    Global Moderator Prince EWS's Avatar
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    Hate to be that guy, but dude, it's Bradman.
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    and he's better.

    you want someone who turned into one of the game's best batsmen after starting out as a bowler. i have no idea about Wally Hammond's early career. he could be a suspect
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    Ike
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    My apologies, Prince. I appreciate any and all corrections! I'm new to cricket and especially its history, plus at my age I remember things incorrectly all too often, alas.

    Spikey, you raise a good point, although for Ruth, only aficionados are familiar with his pitching. His unique place in baseball is primarily from his 'home runs', roughly equivalent to 6's. He not only held the season and career HR records for 50+ years, but he was the first player ever to hit HRs frequently. So I think the cricket equivalent has to be the cricketer, if any, who took batting to a new level and thus dominated his age. Of course, all rounders are relatively common in cricket, and virtually non-existant in baseball, so it may not be possible to make any great parallels between players in the two sports.


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    Cricket Web Staff Member fredfertang's Avatar
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    There's an interesting photograph of Babe Ruth, I believe it was taken in 1935 when Ruth was on a long European vacation after retiring from Baseball, of Alan Fairfax giving him some coaching with the bat in the nets.

    For Ike's benefit Alan Fairfax was an Australian Test all-rounder who debuted at the same time as Bradman. He has a fair record in around a dozen Tests, but was just 25 when he turned his back on a Test career and came to England as a pro to play in the Lancashire League - by 1935 had an indoor cricket school in London

    The Babe looks incredibly awkward in the photo, a huge ungainly looking character wearing civvies and just a front pad - he wasn't comfortable with the technique and rules of the game (apparently he really struggled with the idea that he didn't have to run as soon as he hit the ball), but he must have had a hell of an eye for the ball, as Fairfax is quoted as saying:-

    "I could make one of the world's greatest batsman out of him"

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    Hall of Fame Member Howe_zat's Avatar
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    It could be argued that Bradman took the sport to a new level, except that he was only ever on his own level, and nobody has matched it since.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think Ruth ever had a batting average around double that of his nearest competitors. His reputation comes from his sheer volume of runs across a huge career and the number of people who he inspired as he became essentially the same thing as his team and his sport. In that sense his cricketing peer is Tendulkar.
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    Ike
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    thanks for the further comments. In response to fredfertang, great anecdote. I haven't come across it previously. Btw, by 1935 Ruth had retired from baseball, unable to play effectively any more. He was always heavy set, as he loved to eat and drink, and that only got worse as he got older.

    In response to Howe_zat, you raise an important point, but let me explain a little. Ruth didn't hit for the greatest average. His average was very high (.342, 10th best ever even today), but not the highest. It was in home runs that he was unique in his age. And yes, he did double his nearest competitors in several years. Examples:
    1919 Ruth--29; second place--12
    1920 Ruth-54; second place--19
    1921 Ruth-59; second place-24
    1927 Ruth-60; second place-47

    source: Year-by-Year Top-Tens Leaders &amp Records for Home Runs - Baseball-Reference.com

    Ruth is reputed to have said (I have not been able to verify the quote, "If I'd just tried for them dinky singles, I could've batted around .600." No one in baseball ever batted over .424. Ruth could never have hit .600 of course, but could he have hit .500? We'll never know.

    In any case, Ruth did outpace his contemporaries in a manner similar to Bradman, in the statistic he (Ruth) is most famous for (and which has been the most 'glorified' stat popularly in baseball ever since).

    I find myself talking about Ruth all the time, but what I'd really like to hear is more evaluations of the place of Grace and Bradman (and any others) in the history of cricket. Grace seems to be the most 'larger than life', but might that be because most of what I have read about cricket has been written by Englishmen?

    Thanks again to all for the comments.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Howe_zat View Post
    It could be argued that Bradman took the sport to a new level, except that he was only ever on his own level, and nobody has matched it since.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't think Ruth ever had a batting average around double that of his nearest competitors. His reputation comes from his sheer volume of runs across a huge career and the number of people who he inspired as he became essentially the same thing as his team and his sport. In that sense his cricketing peer is Tendulkar.
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    There's a photo of Babe Ruth and Bradman having a chat somewhere.

    Here it is:

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    So ****ing awesome. Anyone know the year of that photo?
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    1932

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    Nice.

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    Quote Originally Posted by benchmark00 View Post
    Not that I'm suggesting this is a definitive answer, but Ike this article doesn't do much for your debate with your son......

    The tour was the brainchild of Arthur Mailey, the Australian legspinner. Mailey was the perfect salesman. He knew cricket's popularity was on the wane in America, and that the Don would be an unknown entity. So he used associations with baseball, perhaps the most popular sport in the USA then, and the most similar to cricket, to cash in. Bradman was billed as the Babe Ruth of cricket; fitting, because the "Sultan of Swat" himself could best be described as the "Bradman of baseball".

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