August 11, 1929: Yankees slugger Babe Ruth hits his 500th career home run in a 6-5 loss to the Indians.
Although Ruth had shown some offensive prowess in his tenure with the Red Sox from 1914-1919, leading the MLB in home runs in each of his final two seasons in Boston, the 1920s saw Ruth emerge as a true offensive legend.
Before the 1920 season, Ruth was traded to the New York Yankees, who agreed to play him as an outfielder daily instead of using him as a pitcher like the Red Sox had. In addition, the 1920 season saw the beginning of baseball's "live-ball era," meaning that the umpires would replace baseballs with any signs of physical damage, benefitting Ruth and the rest of the league's hitters dramatically.
With the aid of more consistent playing time and more offense-friendly league rules, Ruth began to dominate even more, striking a then-record 54 home runs as a 25-year-old in 1920 and then besting that mark with a staggering 59 in 1921. Ruth would proceed to lead the league in home runs in eight out of the 10 seasons in the 1920s, including a new league record of 60 during the 1927 season with the infamous "Murderer's Row" lineup.
By the start of the 1929 season, Ruth already had 480 career home runs. He was still only 34, so the question for fans to answer was not if Ruth would reach 500 in his career, but when. He reached the mark in an August showdown with the Cleveland Indians.
Tied 0-0 at Ruth's first at-bat in the second inning, he took Cleveland pitcher Willis Hudlin deep for a solo shot, taking a 1-0 lead and becoming the first man in baseball history to reach 500 home runs. Although the Yankees proceeded to lose the game 6-5, Ruth still cemented his place in history, as no other man would reach 500 dingers until Mel Ott during the 1945 season.
Now, the 500 home run club includes 26 players -- 11 of whom hit the milestone in 1999 or later, as the "Steroid Era" brought a significant increase of offensive production to the league. In 2014, after Albert Pujols became the most recent player to reach 500, this video tribute was made to all 26 players, with Ruth's segment starting at the 12:22 mark:
Although the 1929 Yankees did not make the World Series, Ruth still won three titles with the Red Sox and four in New York, before joining the Boston Braves for a year and retiring after the 1935 season. Ruth only won one AL MVP award (it was illegal for players to win the award more than once until the 1930s), but he finished his career with 714 home runs, which stood as a league record until Hank Aaron surpassed it in 1974. "The Sultan of Swat" remains the all-time leader in career slugging percentage, at 0.690.
Ruth was one of five players in the first ever Hall of Fame Class, which was inducted in 1936. He passed away at the age of 53 due to cancer on August 16, 1948.