Today is a good day to suffer through an afternoon Major League Baseball game in the months of July and August. Try to picture baseball in the years around 1935, when Hall of Fame slugger Babe Ruth announced his retirement (via History).
There were also no night games at all during Babe Ruth’s career, and air conditioning in cars was not widely available. No air conditioning was available inside the baseball stadium, not even in the locker rooms (via the U.S. Department of Energy). Keep in mind that when Babe Ruth was a player, MLB uniforms were made of wool. Just picture it the next time you’re enjoying a nice summer afternoon at the ballgame.
To survive the sweltering conditions of New York City, where Babe Ruth set so many records with the Yankees that he is widely regarded as one of the greatest, if not the greatest, baseball player of all time (according to the Baseball Hall of Fame website), Ruth had to resort to some creative measures.
Ruth’s Strategy is not as Novel as it may First Appear.
George Herman “Babe” Ruth famously played baseball with a cabbage leaf beneath his cap to keep him cool, but the circumstances around this decision have been lost to time. However, the Farmers’ Almanac suggests that Ruth’s strategy is not as novel as it may first appear.
Without modern conveniences like air conditioning, people had to get creative about how they dealt with the heat of summer. The Survival Mom goes on to explain that when temperatures rise, several time-tested methods for keeping cool still apply:
creating breeze in whatever way possible, exposing as much skin as possible, and otherwise remaining in the shade. It turns out that the foods you eat can have an effect on how quickly you cool down.
Also, remember to drink plenty of water. Healthline states that this requires more than just getting enough water. Eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and berries will also prove useful. In contrast, massaging sliced cucumber on your skin to chill yourself is recommended by Farmers’ Almanac.
The resulting evaporation will make you feel cooler when the water from the vegetable evaporates. According to Bleacher Report, this is likely why Babe Ruth would sometimes wear a cabbage leaf under his cap when he was in the outfield or at bat.
Every two innings, he would go out and give the cabbage a new sprinkling of salt.
Furthermore, the cabbage leaf that Ruth used to cover her head was of superior quality. According to Fanbuzz, before Ruth would cook using cabbage leaves, she would place them in the refrigerator to chill. According to The Light and Champion, he would replace the leaf every two innings.
Effective Method of Cooling
Drinking a cold beer is not a particularly effective method of cooling off during the summer, despite its apparent appeal. It’s not a good idea to drink alcohol when temperatures are high since it acts as a diuretic and causes you to lose even more fluids (via healthline).
Because of his reputation as a heavy drinker, it’s no surprise that Babe Ruth took measures to keep himself cool during baseball games. Bleacher Report claims that Ruth, who peaked at over 200 pounds, lived mostly on a diet of hot dogs and beer.
You can’t go wrong with a summertime barbecue and a sleep in the shade like that! However, it’s not the best option for a sportsman who used to compete in the game while wearing a wool suit, back when temperatures routinely above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.