My baseball Page-A-Day calendar had an interesting historical tidbit yesterday. It said that when Babe Ruth led the AL in home runs in 1920 (in fact, all of MLB too), he hit more HR's than the next three players combined. Ruth hit 54 that year as George Sisler (19), Tillie Walker (17) and Cy Williams (15) for a total of 51 HR's between the three of them.
It's really hard to grasp from our point of view (even without the steroid era numbers) what a sea change Ruth was. He broke the single season HR record four times, besting his own mark three of those times. His last year with the Bosox in 1919, he hit 29 home runs, eclipsing Ned Williamson's 1884 mark (oddly, the only year Williamson hit in double digits). He set a new record in 1920, again in 1921 (59) and finally in 1927 with sixty.
Another thing about Ruth's gargantuan 1920 season, one I'd heard before; he hit more HR's himself than each team hit total for that year except for the Philadelphia Phillies who collectively hit 64 long balls. The next closest fell four short of Ruth's total, the St. Louis Browns with those fifty.
Ruth broke the career home run record during the 1921 season, passing Roger Conner's 138 home runs compiled over an 18 year career in the late 19th century.
One little oddity about Ruth's home runs I noticed this afternoon. He hit his first two home runs off the same pitcher, Jack Warhop of the Yankees, in 1915. He hit his last two home runs against the same pitcher, Guy Bush of the Pirates, in 1935, sandwiching 710 between those four!