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Who was Better George Babe Ruth or Barry Bonds in Baseball

Updated on June 8, 2015

Baseball Pictures

Photo of Babe Ruth
Photo of Babe Ruth | Source
Photo of Barry Bonds
Photo of Barry Bonds | Source

Best Baseball Players

The debate on who is the best Major League Baseball player has been going on for decades and, to be quite honest, will never be resolved. Part of this uncertainty is there are no specific criteria to determine who the best baseball player of all time is. Some fans might place more importance on batting average over home runs while someone else thinks RBI’s (runs batted in) are the prime factor when defining who the best of all time is.

Two men who come up frequently in these greatest of all time discussions are Babe Ruth and Barry Bonds. Both men were the premiere hitters of their respective eras but each possessed different traits, personalities and skills on the baseball field.

Babe Ruth Facts

George Herman Ruth (aka Babe Ruth) was known for many things during his playing days but most of the attention he grabbed was due to his power and knack to hit home runs. What some people do not know is Babe Ruth was known for so much more.

Ruth was also a pitcher in addition to being a slugger. Back in his playing days it was not uncommon for a player to pitch as well as be a position player. He wasn’t half bad on the mound either.

One of the biggest negative for a team was also connected to Ruth, the Curse of the Bambino. Babe Ruth didn’t start his Hall of Fame career in New York Yankee pinstripes; he was actually a member of the Boston Red Sox. In 1919 the Red Sox sold Ruth to the Yankees for the equivalent of just over two million dollars in today’s money. This decision was associated with all of the years of bad baseball in Boston, and the creation of the curse; the curse was finally broken in 2004 when the Red Sox won a World Series.

Who is Better

Who was a better baseball player?

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George Herman Ruth

Even though the Babe pitched he made a name for himself at the plate. Being the biggest slugger in the game at the time was a title he earned by clubbing some monster home runs. Ruth wasn’t the fittest player and many jokes were made about his soft belly; not every player is blessed with the ability to get six-pack abs.

Ruth also swung one of the biggest bats in professional baseball, rumored to be a minimum of forty ounces. In comparison today’s bats are usually 33-36 inches and 30-33 ounces.

A career that invited him to the Hall of Fame was twenty-two seasons in the making. During this career he had a batting average of .342, 714 home runs and 2,217 runs batted in (RBI’s). His pitching numbers were good as well posting a 94-46 record and an earned run average (ERA) of 2.28.

Barry Bonds Biography

Unlike Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds had a baseball physique. When he first hit the outfield for the Pittsburgh Pirates back in 1986 he already had the look of a professional baseball player. He possessed a rare combination of speed and power and is one of four players to be in the 40-40 club (40 home runs and 40 stolen bases).

Some people forget that Pittsburgh is where Bonds got started because San Francisco is where he broke the Major League Home Run record in a season for the Giants back in 2001.

Bonds’ career numbers featured a batting average of .298, 762 home runs, 1,996 RBI’s and 514 stolen bases.

Career Home Run Leaders

Babe Ruth held the Major League Baseball record for career home runs for many years, until Henry “Hank” Aaron broke his record of 714 home runs in 1974. Bonds broke Aaron’s record of 755 in 2007 and finished his career with 762 home runs.

Obviously both men could muscle the baseball out of the park. Where the debate gets a little bit dicey is when we consider how they became so successful.

BALCO Scandal: Steroids in Baseball

Barry Bonds has become the poster child from the steroid era of the 1990’s; a close second would probably be pitcher Roger Clemens. Bonds gets this distinction because of his very close ties to a company called BALCO. BALCO’s founder Victor Conte cut a plea deal in 2005 of supplying professional baseball players with a steroid cocktails disguised as harmless little products like “The Cream” and “The Clear”. These products were represented, by BALCO, as being legal aids in helping a professional athlete recover from a workout or the rigors of a long season.

Baseball was not the only sport affected by BALCO, Track and Field athletes were caught up as well. Some were Olympic medal winners and their use of BALCO products forced them to forfeit some medals earned.

Ruth played the game when steroids were not even mentioned in the game. Many reports note that Ruth did have a couple of vices that he used to assist his play on the field; beer and hot dogs. Like I already mentioned Babe Ruth wasn’t a sleek gentleman. Comparisons, physically of course, have been made to Ruth and former professional baseball player, and current ESPN personality, John Kruk. Neither man was blesses with having an ‘athletes body’ but both could hit a baseball.

Best Baseball Players of All Time

Statistically both Barry Bonds and Babe Ruth had incredible Major League Baseball careers. Obviously Ruth has been a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame for a very long time, he was inducted in 1936. With the cloud of steroid use hovering over Bonds, he has admitted to using BALCO products that had steroids in them but he claims he didn’t know steroids were in them, only time will tell if he gets enough votes to join Ruth in the Hall.

With such sluggers as Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro being shunned so far for the Hall of Fame Bonds certainly has a challenge ahead of him.

Living close to San Francisco I had a front row seat for his years in a Giants uniform, and the media that followed his home runs. My opinion of Bonds is that he enjoys the attention given to him as an individual and getting elected to the Hall of Fame would be something he would want.

Even though their career numbers are pretty similar my vote would go to Babe Ruth as a better baseball player than Barry Bonds. I’m sure that plenty of people will disagree with me, and that is OK, because we are all entitled to our opinions.

My reasoning is that Ruth was not only a great hitter but a decent pitcher too providing another dimension to his play on the field. The era that Ruth played wasn’t tainted by performance enhancing drugs so the players were able to contribute using more of their God given talent, not because of some supplement or vitamin concoction developed in a lab. I’m not trying to punish Bonds for playing in a generation that science has assisted but players for many years didn’t have these aid’s, they just had to go out and play the game to the best of their abilities.

From what I can tell Ruth was a better teammate too. He knew he was good but he didn’t go around shouting from the rooftops tooting his own horn. Bonds’ feuds with teammates, just ask Jeff Kent, created animosity in the clubhouse that made it obvious that he felt he should be treated better than his teammates. This kind of attitude can drive a wedge in a team with players picking sides and is not conducive to a good team environment.

Babe Ruth gets my support as a better baseball player than Barry Bonds because of his production on the field, attitude in the clubhouse and demeanor away from the ballpark.

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    • Billrrrr profile image

      Bill Russo 2 years ago from Cape Cod

      There is no debate. Babe Ruth was a far superior player. in every aspect of the game. Let's quickly correct a huge misconception. As someone writing on Askdotcom noted, Babe was not born 35 years old and out of shape. The photos you see of him are in the latter stages of his career when his brobdignagian appetite got the best of him. Early in his career, his physique was excellent even by today's standard. When he broke in, he was 6'3" and weighed about 185.

      If you look at the size of ballplayers back in the day, you will find that many of them were about 5'6". A man six feet tall, 100 years ago was a big man indeed. Johnny Evers, star second baseman of the World Champion 1914 Boston Braves(and before that the Cubs) weighed only 95 pounds his first year in the majors. At his heaviest, he was only 125 pounds. Johnny was immortalized in the poem, "Tinkers to Evers to Chance".

      Being so much bigger than most of the other players was an advantage for the Babe - of that there is no doubt....but if you look at his record you will see that he really was in a league by himself. He set pitching records for the Red Sox and batting records for the Yanks that were monumental. Babe hit a ton of home runs in the dead ball era. If he were playing today, he would probably hit 100 home runs a year.

      Quick note....a physic is a medicine such as Ex Lax, that purges the system. You might want to do a quick edit insert 'physique' in place of physic in the following line - " Unlike Babe Ruth, Barry Bonds had a baseball physic."

    • baseballbrains profile image

      baseballbrains 3 years ago

      This is a great hub, I love it. The debate is awesome too, although it's unfortunate that we have to have it. Bonds was an amazing player before he had anything to do with steroids, in some ways he was even better. He was faster and could cover more ground in the outfield, and he was speedy on the bases. I'm a big fan of defense so I view this period as "even better", but I recognize my bias! As for his home runs later in his career, he didn't need all those, and he didn't need the steroids. I think the biggest asterisk causing factor in all of it, is how steroids keep you healthy and let you come back from injury quicker. Who knows how many games he would have missed or if his career would have been as long without the roids. Look at Griffey Jr., not a steroid guy but plagued with injury. Maybe he would have had a similar career as Bonds without the injuries, but playing that long naturally might not be possible. I don't know how to settle it, it's a lot to think about. Anyway, good hub!

    • Laramy74 profile image

      Larry Stafford 3 years ago from Newark Delaware

      What if Judge Landis, during Ruth's tenure, was commissioner today? I suspect that he would have been thrown out of baseball (among others) and you wouldn't be having this discussion.

      Ruth made the game of baseball that we remember today. He was the right man at the right time.

    • adjkp25 profile image
      Author

      David 4 years ago from Northern California

      lions44 - Bonds had all the tools and I agree with you that he wanted just a bit more.

      Regarding Braun I had questions when the synthetic testosterone was detected in a sample from him. Given the new information coming out about the lab in Florida it certainly doesn't look good that he will be exonerated of using PED's.

    • lions44 profile image

      CJ Kelly 4 years ago from Auburn, WA

      Bonds deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, period. He was already a HoFer prior to the "cream and the clear." It's a shame he went down that road. But jealousy of McGwire and Sosa drove him to it. Hard to compare Ruth to Bonds. Segregation, a higher mound and no off-season training should all factor in to comparing the eras. Great article. Have you changed your opinion on Braun?

    • adjkp25 profile image
      Author

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      Stephen - I too played for many years and I still coach my son now. The history of baseball is very rich and I'm glad that it interests you. Thanks for commenting.

    • StephenCowry profile image

      StephenCowry 5 years ago

      I used to play baseball in grade school and high school. Never played for quite a long time already. But, I really wanted to play again. Knowing its history and everything about baseball is something that interests me.

    • adjkp25 profile image
      Author

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      Mmargie1966 - You hit the nail on the head about natural ability, I couldn't agree more. Thanks

    • Mmargie1966 profile image

      Mmargie1966 5 years ago from Gainesville, GA

      I voted for Babe Ruth! He played when men were men; when sports were rough and tumble. Modern day athletes are definitely tough, don't get me wrong. But back in the day, there were less pads, safety rules, and a man only used his natural ability to succeed.

    • adjkp25 profile image
      Author

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      Kathleen - Something about Bonds has always got under my skin. Great player on the field but just not a very nice person otherwise. Glad to see your research put Aaron ahead of him too. Thanks

    • adjkp25 profile image
      Author

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      teaches12345 - Babe was a terrific baseball player, back when all that mattered was what you did on the field. I can probably count, on one hand, how many players are good hitters and pitchers in baseball now. Thanks

    • adjkp25 profile image
      Author

      David 5 years ago from Northern California

      Marcy - I would have loved to see players from Babe Ruth's generation play. Thanks

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Did a comparison of Bonds and Aaron and came to similar conclusions. Looks like a lot of folks come in ahead of Bonds and his reputation. I like just about any hub on baseball. This one was particularly good.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      I agree that Ruth was the better baseball player as he relied on his natural talent to perform. I didn't know he was also a pitcher. Interesting hub and enjoyed the read.

    • Marcy Goodfleisch profile image

      Marcy Goodfleisch 5 years ago from Planet Earth

      Awww - even though I wasn't around when The Babe was playing, he sure tugs at your heart! Jeff Kent is a terrific guy, and his family is great, too, by the way. Nice and informative hub!