You know it's you, Babe

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:12 AM ET

What sort of role should the greatest baseball player of all time play?

Should he be a defensive guru like Cal Ripken Jr., an offensive powerhouse like Hank Aaron or should he be a pitcher like Sandy Koufax, controlling games from the most important position on the field?

Only one man can end the debate immediately by virtue of the fact he did all three.

His name: George Herman Ruth. The Babe. The Bambino. The Sultan of Swat.

The best baseball's ever seen.

Starting his illustrious career as a Boston Red Sox pitcher who became a two-time 23-game winner by age 22, the man who eventually won twice as many decisions as he lost (94-46) became a full-time positional player in 1920 when the Yankees acquired him in the most lopsided purchase in sports lore. It was that year the charismatic orphan became baseball's saviour by overshadowing the 1919 Black Sox scandal and ushering in the longball era with 54 homers (nearly doubling his previous record of 29 the year before).

All told, he'd swat 714 dingers over 22 years while compiling a stunning .342 batting average (eighth all-time) and maintaining a larger-than-life profile that had him hob-nobbing with Hollywood's elite and winning four world championships.

"I just think of how long his records stood," said Hockey Canada president Bob Nicholson, referring to Ruth's 60 homers in 1927, which is still the standard against which all power hitters are judged.

"He's one of the athletes from long ago that continues to be out in the public and looked at as the cornerstone of their sport."

Those who choose to overlook The Babe in the debate do so largely because they never saw him play or because what they saw on grainy film depicted him as a pudgy, cigar-smoking carouser.

His main competitor in the debate is as well-rounded an athlete as baseball has ever seen -- Willie Mays.

The 24-time all-star, who some suggest was as close to perfection as baseball has ever seen, spent his career making breathtaking catches and throws while compiling a .302 batting average and 660 homers to sit fourth all-time.

"He could do everything -- he could hit with power, run, catch. He's the best," said Flames Hockey Hall of Fame broadcaster Peter Maher, a lifelong Yankees fanatic.

"I should say Mickey Mantle because he was my hero but he had knee problems and drank too much. I have to say Mays."

Although Stamps quarterback Henry Burris cites L.A. Dodgers such as Kirk Gibson, Davey Lopes and Orel Hershiser as his heroes, he cites The Mick -- a seven-time World Champ from Burris' native Oklahoma -- as the game's very best.

When asked for his thoughts, the Fan 960's Rob Kerr cites Ripken's iron man streak as one of the greatest records in sports before pointing to Roger Clemens as the game's most dominant pitcher.

Throw in Ruth's power and presence and he was unable to come up with a consensus No. 1.

Stamps owner and former CFL commissioner Doug Mitchell says Koufax or Joe DiMaggio instantly come to mind while others cite the formidable talents of Stan Musial, Ted Williams, Ty Cobb or Lou Gehrig.

"In his prime I would have said Ken Griffey Jr. because he could do it all -- hit, run, field," said Stamps kicker Sandro DeAngelis, adding a few contemporary names to the discussion.

"Now Barry Bonds is the most dominant offensive player."

Alas, his recent accomplishments spark an entirely different debate.


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