Babe Ruth and Disability Income Insurance?

May 26, 2020

[Life Insurance Spotlight: This series showcases famous people and their little-known connections to the life insurance industry]

Private disability income insurance (DI) is the most common form of income protection for workers, allowing millions of Americans to maintain their income if a medical condition keeps them out of the workplace.

DI coverage offered by life insurers provides workers with peace of mind, which is especially comforting during stressful times like the COVID-19 state of emergency.

But DI’s value is certainly not limited to global pandemics.

In good times or bad, DI policies provide reassurance to Americans from all walks of life – whether it’s a construction worker in 2020 — or a baseball superstar 100 years earlier.

In March 1920, Babe Ruth was 25-years-old and was set to earn $20,000 from his new club, the New York Yankees. No one else in the major leagues had a higher salary, and with good reason. In 1919 while playing for the Boston Red Sox, Ruth had set the major league record for home runs in a single-season with 29. 

Heading into the 1920 season, Ruth decided to protect himself financially in case he was unable to earn his salary. Like many Americans, Ruth had been affected by the Spanish influenza pandemic of 1918. In fact, Ruth caught the flu twice that year. So before the 1920 season began, Ruth secured several insurance policies, including a short-term disability policy from The Hartford. This policy would have paid him $200 a week if an illness or injury prevented him from playing. 

Fortunately for Ruth – and the Yankees – he remained healthy in 1920. Ruth shattered his home run record that season by hitting 54. No one else in the American League hit more than 19. In fact, no other American League team hit more than 50.

Ruth was ahead of his time – both on and off the diamond. By securing disability income insurance to protect his paycheck, he demonstrated foresight that is shared by millions of American workers today. In fact, life insurers provided more than $19 billion in disability income insurance benefits in 2018.

David Nielsen

David Nielsen is Senior Director, Strategic Content/IMPACT at the American Council of Life Insurers (ACLI). His responsibilities include IMPACT and other ACLI publications, notably News Now & News Now International. A former bank examiner, business analyst and journalist, he joined ACLI in 2013.