Why Babe Ruth Put Cabbage Under His Baseball Cap

Afternoon MLB baseball games in July and August are hot enough to sit through today. Imagine, though, what it was like circa 1935, the year that Hall-of-Fame slugger Babe Ruth retired (via History). Also during Babe Ruth's career, there were no night games at all, and no widespread air conditioning to escape to in the car. Nor was there any AC in the indoor areas of the baseball stadium, or in the locker room (via the U.S. Department of Energy). Bear in mind that at the time that Babe Ruth played the game, MLB uniforms were made from wool. Imagine that on the next warm and sunny summer afternoon at the ballpark.

In a hot and humid New York City — where Babe Ruth set so many records with the Yankees that many consider him among the greatest, if not the greatest, baseball player in history (via the Baseball Hall of Fame website) — Ruth had no choice but to go to unusual lengths to beat the heat. How George Herman "Babe" Ruth settled on this unique temperature management strategy — he played the game with a cabbage leaf under his cap — is now lost to history. According to Farmers' Almanac, though, Ruth's approach is not as unusual as it seems.

Stayin' cool as a cucumber

In the days before air conditioning, people were forced to take all kinds of unusual steps to stay cool in the summer as they went about their daily lives. Some old-fashioned techniques to cool off when temperatures climb make sense even today: generate breeze however you can, uncover as much of your skin as possible, and otherwise, stick to the shade, as The Survival Mom goes on to explain. As it turns out, what you eat also plays a part in cooling down.

And it's important, of course, to stay hydrated. According to healthline, that means more than just drinking adequate amounts of water. Eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and berries will also help get the job done. But if cooling off is your primary objective, Farmers' Almanac also suggests rubbing sliced cucumber on your skin. Water left behind from the vegetable will evaporate, helping your body feel cooler. This is perhaps what Babe Ruth had in mind when during his playing career he was known to stick a cabbage leaf under his cap in the outfield, or when he was up to bat, as Bleacher Report explains.

He freshened up the cabbage every two innings

It wasn't just any cabbage leaf under Ruth's cap, either. According to Fanbuzz, Ruth would first lay cabbage leaves out on the ice box so that they would be nice and chilled. He would then switch out the leaf every two innings, per The Light and Champion. As tempting as it might seem, drinking a cold beer is not a great way to cool down in the summer. Alcohol is a diuretic, dehydrating you even further, which is the last thing you want when temperatures soar (via healthline).

Babe Ruth was known to be a prodigious drinker, so it makes sense then that heat management was a priority for the baseball star. For a professional athlete, Ruth — who topped out at more than 200 pounds — had a diet consisting mostly of hot dogs and beer, according to Bleacher Report. That's not a bad menu for the occasional summer barbecue followed by a nap in the shade. It's not the best choice, though, for an athlete who played the game in a wool suit, sometimes in temperatures reaching the triple digits, in the days before air conditioning.