George Herman “Babe” Ruth, Jr. (February 6, 1895 – August 16, 1948), nicknamed “the Bambino” and “the Sultan of Swat”, was an American outfielder and pitcher who played 22 seasons in Major League Baseball (MLB), from 1914 to 1935. Beginning his career as a stellar left-handed pitcher for the Boston Red Sox, Ruth achieved his greatest fame as a slugging outfielder for the New York Yankees. He established many batting (and some pitching) records, including career home runs (714), slugging percentage (.690), runs batted in (RBIs) (2,213), bases on balls (2,062), and on-base plus slugging (OPS) (1.164), some of which have been broken. One of the most prolific hitters in baseball history, Ruth was one of the first five players to be elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1936.
At age seven, Ruth was sent to St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, a reformatory where he learned life lessons and baseball skills from Brother Matthias Boutlier, the school’s disciplinarian and a capable baseball player. In 1914, Ruth was signed to play minor-league baseball for the Baltimore Orioles. Soon traded to the Red Sox, he was initially used infrequently but by 1916 had built a reputation as an outstanding pitcher who sometimes hit long home runs, the latter a feat unusual in the pre-1920 dead-ball era. Although Ruth twice won 20 games as a pitcher and was a member of three World Series championship teams with Boston, he believed his talents were best used as an everyday player, a view he convinced Red Sox management of by 1919 after breaking the MLB single-season home run record.
Born to Irish immigrants in Minooka, Pennsylvania (now a part of Scranton), O’Neill was one of four brothers who escaped a life in the coal mines by playing in the major leagues. Other notable members of the O’Neill family were Jack, a catcher in the National League (1902–06); Mike, a right-handed pitcher in the NL (1901–04, 1907); and Jim, an infielder with the American League Washington Senators (1920, 1923). Baseball historian William C. Kashatus noted that Michael and Jack “would become the first brother battery in major league history”. The O’Neill brothers “were known to exchange their signals in Gaelic in order to fool the opposing coaches”. Later, two of Steve O’Neill’s daughters married professional baseball players, one of whom was Skeeter Webb, who worked for O’Neill when he managed the Detroit Tigers during the 1940s.
Steve had by far the most successful playing career of the O’Neill brothers, serving as a catcher for 17 years in the American League. He played with the Cleveland Indians (1911–23), Boston Red Sox (1924), New York Yankees (1925), and St. Louis Browns (1927–28). His playing career curtailed by an injury sustained in a car accident, O’Neill compiled a batting average of .263 in 1,586 games, and, in his only World Series appearance in 1920, hit .333 in seven games as the backstop for the world champion Indians.