There were no poetic words written for Babe Ruth’s final game at the stadium he built. Nobody mused about Gods and letters. The game was Sept. 23, 1934. It was well-known before the game even started that this would be Ruth’s last home game as a regular, and probably his last home game as a Yankee. About 2,000 people showed up to see it. Ruth walked for the 104th time that season — one thing the man could still do was draw a walk — and then he came out of the game for what the papers called a “charley horse.” Ruth did finish off the season on the road, playing three games in Philadelphia and Washington, and he went to Boston the next year to play 28 sad games as a gimmick for the Braves. This proved, in the reverse of those immortal words by John Updike, that Babe Ruth did not know how to do the hardest thing: Quit. ￼ Before this weekend -- when he finished tied for 44th -- Woods had never finished out of the top 10 in stroke play to start a season. (AP) But the point here is, people quit on him. He was 39, going on 40, and it was clear to everyone that he was done as a player (even though, with all those walks, he still posted a .448 on-base percentage in 1934). The Yankees offered him a minor league manager’s job and then, upon his request, dumped him. After a few bad games in Boston, he retired. The point is, people understood that even the great Babe Ruth could not go on forever. The same is true of Michael Jordan. He was, in the minds of most, the greatest basketball player who ever lived. I certainly believe that. In his last six full seasons as a player in Chicago, he led the NBA in scoring and carried his Bulls to six championships. But when he came back to play for Washington at age 38, while there was a lot of buzz, there was no sense that he was the same, no sense that he could suddenly become young again. He still had enough fire and knew enough tricks to make himself a reasonable player, but nobody expected him to one day just become the invincible Michael Jordan again. And he never did. Nobody (except perhaps wide-eyed Arizona management) expected Emmitt Smith to suddenly become his old dominant self when he went to play for the Cardinals at age 34. There was quite a bit of hype when Joe Namath went to play for the Rams at age 34, but only the people who believe in fairy tales could have thought that he was going to become Broadway Joe again (not with his knees shot and considering that he hadn’t really been worth a damn for three or four years). There was a desperate need by many (including me) to believe that Muhammad Ali had one more burst of brilliance left in him, one more butterfly dance and bee sting, and the house made a killing off those few naive souls who bet with their hearts when Ali fought Holmes. The house has built cities on the backs of naive souls who bet against time. We often talk about how sad it was to watch Willie Mays flounder around at the end, to watch John Unitas get sacked time after time in a San Diego uniform that clashed with his football life, to watch Jim Palmer or Mark Spitz or Jim Brown begin “comebacks” that felt instead like sports funerals. They are sad, but I don’t know that we ever consider these things surprising. Somewhere nuts inside, we understand and bow to the power of the years. Somewhere inside we know that even the greatest ever, even Dr. J., even Hogan, even Sampras and Aaron and Musial and Palmer, even Joe Louis and Sugar Ray Robinson and Jack Nicklaus, all of them get old. And when you get old, you don’t get young again. It’s the unbreakable rule.