Here's What Happened When Psychologists Tested Babe Ruth

Illustration for article titled Heres What Happened When Psychologists Tested Babe Ruth

In 1921, a sports writer took Babe Ruth to the Columbia University Psychology Lab to get him to take a series of tests. The results? The world’s most famous athlete was “superior.” Find out how he proved his superior skills.


Hugh Fullerton made a name for himself as a sports writer by analyzing the games he wrote about, instead of just recapping them. He was to gain fame for his uses of statistics to predict game play, but in 1921, he decided to take a closer look at one particular player. Babe Ruth was the most famous baseball player in America, and Fullerton decided to look at what made him so good at his job. To that end, he took him to Columbia University.

Ruth proved his dexterity by doing well at tests like tapping a stylus and inserting the stylus into a specific sequence of holes. It isn’t surprising that Ruth’s dexterity and his reaction time were above average. He also did very well at swinging at a tethered ball with a wired-up bat.


He then, according to the American Psychological Association’s article on the subject, took a number of perception tests, which were considered at the time part of the measure of a person’s intelligence.

In a perceptual task that involved recognizing letters flashed briefly, Ruth identified an average of 6 letters from an array of 8, compared with 4.5 for an average individual. When arrays of dots were flashed, he correctly identified the number up to 12, compared with a score of 8 for the average person.

The psychologists didn’t publish any results at the end of the testing, knowing it was more a stunt than a study. However, later baseball players have taken similar tests, and come up with similar results.

[Source: APA]

Image: Library of Congress


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What’s even more impressive is he did all that while sober. Imagined how he would have done if he had been wasted like he was during most games.