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The Legendary Man Known as "Babe"

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb
The Truth Network Radio
December 6, 2023 3:02 am

The Legendary Man Known as "Babe"

Our American Stories / Lee Habeeb

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December 6, 2023 3:02 am

On this episode of Our American Stories, the curator of the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum in Baltimore, Maryland (just outside Camden Yards) explains.

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Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there. This is our American Stories, and as you know, we tell stories about everything. Very few athletes, let alone celebrities, have achieved the legendary status that has been given to George Herbert Babe Ruth Jr. Here's Mike Gibbons, director emeritus and curator of the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum in Baltimore, Maryland, to tell us just a little bit about what made the Babe a legend. Well, today I'd like to talk to you about one of my favorite topics, and that would be Babe Ruth, the guy that I've spent most of my lifetime studying and celebrating. He is arguably the most celebrated athlete ever and certainly the greatest baseball player of all time. Now, people ask me all the time, they say, well, how can you say that? How can you say he's the greatest?

And it's an easy answer. He is the only player who starred both as a pitcher and then as a position player, not to mention being the major's all-time slugger with a.342 batting average. When he retired in 1935, he held 206 major league pitching and batting records. His talent certainly puts him on the Mount Rushmore of sports, but his bigger-than-life personality and the timing of his move from Boston to New York in 1920, the beginning of the Roaring Twenties in America, helped make him into an American cultural icon, right up there with the likes of JFK, Martin Luther King, Marilyn Monroe, Honest Abe Lincoln. So all these years after his death, 72 to be exact, virtually every American, and countries in Latin America and Japan where they play baseball, they know the name Babe Ruth. His autograph, the most valuable and recognizable of all.

What contributes to this unprecedented celebrity? Certainly, it's his baseball accomplishments, but also something legendary, the tales, the myths, the legends that help to mold that legendary aspect into the man. Let's start at the beginning right here in Baltimore and how he got to the point of having the most famous nickname in all of sports. Ruth grew up on the west side of Baltimore along the waterfront, came from a modest family, blue-collar workers. They were saloon keepers, mom and dad. They were so busy trying to run the shop that at the age of seven, his father threw up his hands and said, George, we're going to be taking you to St. Mary's Industrial School.

And there he stayed until he was 19 years old. So 12 years he stayed at St. Mary's and was raised by the Zverian brothers, most notably a guy by the name of Brother Matthias. And Brother Matthias instilled in Ruth a little bit of discipline, a lot of religion, and taught him the game of baseball. Ruth went on for the rest of his life thinking that Brother Matthias was really the man that he admired more than any other. And Matthias gave him the gift of teaching him how to pitch, throw, catch, hit, all those things. Ruth excelled at St. Mary's to the extent that when he was 19 years old, he caught the attention of the Baltimore Orioles minor league owner and manager, a guy by the name of Jack Dunn.

Now here is where the nickname comes in. So Dunne goes out to St. Mary's and signs Ruth on Valentine's Day 1914 to a contract that would pay the youngsters $600 a month. Ruth said, that's more money than I've seen in my whole life. So Dunne takes Ruth, along with his minor league Orioles, down to spring training in Fayetteville, North Carolina. And there word spreads about Dunn having to sign guardian papers to get Ruth to be a professional baseball player. The St. Mary's Industrial School would not have released Ruth until he was 21 without someone else signing over for the legal guardian rights to George Jr. So off they go there and word gets out that Dunne is his legal guardian. And the players and reporters covering the team started referring to George Ruth as Jack Dunn's baby.

And this is in mid-February 1914. Within a month, the Baltimore Sun is referring in print to Ruth as Babe Ruth and the nickname obviously stuck forever. Now the next thing I wanted to talk to you about occurred on his first stop at Major League Baseball in Boston where he was a star pitcher for the Boston Red Sox. As a matter of fact, he was so good that in the five full seasons he played in Boston, he helped deliver three World Series championships to Boston and the Red Sox and was just a burgeoning star.

His name was known nationwide by then. Babe Ruth was, everybody thought that he was the best left-handed pitcher in the game. But he got sold to the Yankees over the winter of 1919-1920 and headed off to New York, the Yankees who had never won a championship. So he goes to New York, plays there 16 years and in that time delivered seven World Series appearances for the Yankees.

In the meantime, the Red Sox totally dried up and over the next 86 years failed to win a World Series championship. And that became known as the Curse of the Bambino, something that is still talked about to this day, especially in Boston. A lot of people know that Babe Ruth loved children maybe more than any other athlete ever, at least that we have seen. Babe went out of his way throughout his career, throughout his life to visit children in orphanages and also hospitals. He always would be trying to bring some joy to children down on their luck or in some kind of trouble. And on one of those hospital occasions, that's where the story of Little Johnny Sylvester comes from.

The year is 1926. The Yankees are playing the Cardinals for the World Series. And word gets out, and this supposedly came from Johnny Sylvester's father who was a big Yankees fan, that Little Johnny is dying of a rare blood disease and is there anything that the Yankees could do to lift his spirits? Well, the story goes that Babe Ruth predicted he would hit a home run for Johnny in the next World Series game. So Johnny listens to his radio and Babe hits a home run and lifts Johnny's spirits.

But in fact, that day, Ruth hit three home runs. So he must have really lifted Johnny's spirits to the extent that Johnny got better and went on to live a long and productive life as a banker up in Connecticut. In 1986, 60 years after the event at the museum, we decided to celebrate the Little Johnny story and I went looking for Johnny Sylvester. I found him and I asked him, I said, John, do you have anything to prove that Babe Ruth predicted he'd hit a home run for you?

And Johnny says, not only can I prove it, I'll bring it to Baltimore and show you. And Johnny came down to Baltimore and he presented a baseball to us and on the baseball Babe Ruth wrote, I'll knock a homer for you in Wednesday's game. And that ball stayed on display with us for about 20 years.

It was one of our most popular artifacts to just a great story. But it just shows you just how incredible Babe Ruth really was. Next up is the 1927 barnstorming tour.

The Yankees had defeated the Pirates four straight games in the 27 World Series. And Ruth and Lou Gehrig went out and toured the country, going to small towns to play baseball games. Well, this was a big deal because back in the 20s, it was rare when Americans could see their favorite athletes or movie stars or things like that.

They pretty much had to go to a movie theater to watch movie tone reels to get a glimpse at these stars. So Ruth and Gehrig take off on a six weeks tour and give their fans an experience that they would remember for the rest of their lives. It was so big when they came to town. The only thing I can liken it to in today's world is when the Beatles hit America in 1964. We had never seen anything like it back then.

This was equal to that. Ruth was the biggest thing that ever happened in America. The last thing I want to talk about is the called shot home run. This is where Babe Ruth supposedly points and then where he's going to hit a home run.

And on the next pitch, he does. It occurred in the 1932 World Series Game three, October 1st, 1932. Ruth is with the Yankees. They're in Chicago playing the Cubs.

They're up two games to none. And in the fifth inning of that game, Ruth comes to the plate. The Cubs had been giving him a lot of grief throughout the game, throughout the series, actually, and he was pushing back. And with a two and two count, he stepped out of the box, supposedly pointed either to center field or pitcher Charlie Root, but said to Root, I'm going to hit the next pitch down your throat. And Ruth hit the ball to center field on the next swing and the ball became the longest home run in the history of Wrigley Field. So there you are.

Just some examples. The indelibility of Ruth's celebrity and his mythic status in this country. He is an American icon. He's an all American dream come true. The big fellow, the Bambino, the Babe in World War Two.

And I'll leave you with this. The Japanese, when they charged American positions, they shouted to hell with Babe Ruth, knowing that Babe was precious to them, maybe more precious than anything else. And that's the way Babe Ruth was bigger than life. And great job by Robbie and a special thanks to Mike Gibbons, the director emeritus and curator of the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum.

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Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-06 04:24:51 / 2023-12-06 04:30:14 / 5

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