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MLB.com Columnist

Terence Moore

The Bambino a legend still, and forever

Moore: The Bambino a legend still, and forever

The Bambino a legend still, and forever
While it was significant what occurred during a rainy night in Georgia on April 8, 1974, regarding Hank Aaron's legacy, it also was significant what didn't occur regarding the memory of George Herman Ruth.

What occurred: Aaron solidified his legend, not only as the standard bearer for home runs during a career without the hint of scandal, but as baseball's prince of class and dignity.

What didn't occur: The world didn't forget Babe Ruth, and we're talking about a guy who was born in the 19th century, prospered as a universal icon during the early 20th century and went to his grave in Hawthorne, N.Y., more than six decades ago.

Even so, Ruth's spirit lives in the 21st century -- big time. We know this because there is that house on the market these days for $1.65 million in Sudbury, Mass. It has 5,000 square feet, and it features five bedrooms and 3 1/2 bathrooms on two acres. It has elaborate upgrades across its original structure, which was built around 1800.

The estate is called Home Plate Farm -- you know, to commemorate the five years it was owned during the 1920s by The Babe, when he played for the New York Yankees.

There even are burn marks on the floor of one of the rooms, and a local real estate broker told The Associated Press that the marks are the product of Ruth flicking his cigar ashes.

Whatever works. And everything works when it involves "Babe Ruth" in some capacity.

The Associated Press also reported this week that an Iowa family had eight baseballs signed by Ruth from 1948, when he traveled through a small town in the state for a visit. They sold the baseballs on Friday at an auction for a total of $216,000. One of the baseballs was in near-mint condition, and the AP said it sold for $77,000.

Then there is Ruth's eternal ties to the Yankees, still vibrant since he made them famous more than 80 years ago, when he slammed balls with regularity over the fences inside the house that he built -- old Yankee Stadium.

Now the Yankees play in a new Yankee Stadium that is across the street from where the old one stood.

Ruth's spirit traveled to the new place.

Courtesy of Ruth's spirit -- along with five World Series championships since 1996 and Derek Jeter -- no team is on national television more during a given season, month or week than the Yankees. Plus, often during those broadcasts at the new Yankee Stadium, the cameras point to Monument Park and show the bronzed plaque for Ruth.

The plaque says, "A great player, a great man, a great American."

Ruth's spirit expands to other teams, too. Even though the Boston Red Sox have captured two World Series championships since 2004, they still talk of "The Curse of the Bambino."

The Curse became the rage around Boston and baseball after Ruth began his career as a fabulous pitcher for the Red Sox, helped them win the 1918 World Series and was sold after the following season to the Yankees for nothing worth mentioning. While Ruth combined with Lou Gehrig to start the first of many Yankees dynasties, the Red Sox suffered without a World Series championship for the next 86 years.

You also have Ruth and the Baltimore Orioles.

Well, indirectly.

This is the 20th anniversary of the Orioles' Camden Yards. Not only is it within walking distance to Ruth's birthplace, but there is a statue of Ruth outside of the ballpark. Historians also say Ruth's father owned a pub that sat on the current site of center field.

If that isn't enough, the Orioles have shocked many this season with one of the best records in baseball.

Ruth's spirit again?

Bottom line: Ruth never left. Not after his throat cancer in 1948, and not after Aaron slammed the 715th home run of his career that night at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium to make Ruth's "714" just another number.

Ruth failed to become just another player in baseball lore, though, and given the strength of his spirit, he never will -- not as long as the game features innings, umpires and batting averages.

Actually, Ruth is bigger than all of that.

We've had the likes of John L. Sullivan, Red Grange and Joe Louis from one generation, and then of Johnny Unitas, Muhammad Ali and Arnold Palmer from another, and then Michael Jordan, Tiger Woods and Peyton Manning from yet another.

No matter how many famous athletes you mention since the founding of the United States, none surpasses Ruth when it comes to the combination of name recognition and overall longevity.

The Ruth magic began with his dramatic number of homers in the 1920s and expanded to his personality.

Season after season, Ruth winked at cameras with charisma, promised to blast home runs for ailing youngsters (and doing it), pointed to spots where he would send pitches behind walls (and allegedly doing it) and enjoyed life in a gigantic way through food and drink.

Then came the close of Ruth's career, along with his life.

In June 1948, Ruth leaned his feeble body of 53 against a bat while standing during a tribute at old Yankee Stadium for what became a Pulitzer Prize-winning photo. He died two months later. And, to hear some tell it, he died again nearly 26 years later at Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium, after Aaron's home run swing for the ages.

But Ruth didn't die again.

If you look around, Ruth didn't die at all.

Terence Moore is a columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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