Baseball’s comparison that never ends

Baseball is becoming obsessed with Shohei Ohtani versus Babe Ruth. Each time the Los Angeles Angels super human runs or hits or pitches as Ruth did, another milestone pops up.

Only Ohtani and Ruth have been starting pitchers while batting third or fourth in Boston’s Fenway Park. Only Ohtani and Ruth have won 100 games and struck out 250 batters. Only Ohtani and Ruth have seasons of 10 wins and and 10 home runs. Only Ohtani and Ruth…

Forget the stats.

The biggest similarity between these legendary pitcher-sluggers is that they are pitcher-sluggers who became stars super enough to be ranked as “most influential people,” a cultural status that often accompanies super-stardom.

In many ways, however, their differences are bigger. They came to baseball from two different worlds — Ohtani from Oshu, a city in northern Japan known for its beef, and Ruth from the Pigtown section of Baltimore. When Ohtani went to high school, he lived on campus where he had to clean toilets to teach him humility. Ruth spent 12 years in a reform school after he was deemed incorrigible as a seven-year-old, and frequently ran the streets while drinking beer.

To prepare for major-league baseball, Ohtani played five pro seasons with the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters, living in a dorm while his parents managed a growing bank account. Ruth went straight from reform school to Triple A, hit his first home run in Toronto before being promoted to Boston, and married a 16-year-old waitress.

Ohtani has picked up litter on his way to first base if he walks. He hands bats to bat boys, apologizes to catchers if he hits a foul off their masks, and smiles and thanks umpires when they make obligatory checks of his glove for an illegal substance. Ruth was a litterbug wherever he went…sometimes a jitterbug, too. He barged into the opposing locker room at the World Series to find opponents who had been heckling him. He threatened to go all Jack Dempsey on umpires if he didn’t like their calls, punctuating one argument with a left hook to the jaw of umpire Brick Owens.

After two injury-riddled seasons, Ohtani changed his diet based an analysis of his blood. For Ruth, diet was a four-letter word and he was known to each prodigious helpings of food in one sitting, even breakfast. Ohtani’s salary is $30 million and Ruth’s best contract was $80,000 (about $1.4 million in today’s dollars).

They say people in Japan are up at 3 a.m. to watch Ohtani from the other side of the world. Fans could watch Ruth in action in the middle of the night, too, if they happened to be in the right bar on the right night.

A hundred years ago was such a different time, of course. Baseball was different, too.

For all their differences, what binds them together is the magnificent, immense talent to be a pitcher who can hit, or a hitter who can pitch. Ruth was deified for his record 60 home runs. Ohtani, 29 this week, is three years younger than Ruth was when he hit 60, and he’s on track to make it by October.

Then it’ll be that time again.

Ohtani and Ruth…