It was exactly 70 years ago today, on June 13th 1948, that Babe Ruth, aka the Sultan of Swat, retired his No. 3. To celebrate the silver anniversary of the Yankee Stadium, the beloved Bambino, stood before an adoring 40,000 strong crowd. Weakened by the cancer that had ravaged him, his thin legs and body supported by a bat which essentially served as a cane, the greatest baseball player of them all waved his cap for the last time. And it was clear that this was the final goodbye.
Sports photographer, Nat Fein was there to capture the moment. But unlike the other photographers who had jostled to get to the front, Fein clamoured to capture him from behind to gain the full scope of what lay before him. In doing so he documented the full vista; not only the photographers, and the players, but the entire stadium of cheering fans. In essence, The House That Ruth Built. This image conveys the magnificent Ruth, who even at his weakest, is humbled by the enormity of his achievements. He therefore takes on a mythical, timeless status, that will live on long past his own mortality. Saying goodbye to a hero, and the end of an era.
Ruth died two months later, and Fein went on to win a Pulitzer Prize. It was the first one awarded to a sports photographer, thereby legitimising another genre of photography beyond hard-hitting news reportage. Often cited as one of the most important photographs of the 20th century, Fein’s iconic tribute to Ruth lives on in the hearts and minds of all baseball and photography fans worldwide.