Babe Ruth Interview: Told By His Grand-Daughter
Babe Ruth was arguably the most talented man to ever grace a baseball diamond, no other player who has laced up the spikes, struck more fear in an opposing pitcher than George Herman Ruth when he strolled to the batters box wielding a piece of lumber. The Sultan of Swat is immortalized for his bat however Ruth was one of the most dominant hurlers of his era before the tape measure home runs. His career pitching line was 94-46 with an impressive career era of 2.28.
In 1916 Ruth was 23-12 with an invisible era of 1.75 in 40 starts throwing 323 innings for the Boston Red Sox. The Babe would follow up that campaign going 24-13 the following season. The 714 career round trippers take center stage when reminiscing about Ruth's milestones but the lefty could throw.
The following interview you are about to read was provided to me by the grand-daughter of Babe Ruth: Linda Ruth Tosetti who is a Grandpa Ruth historian like no other. Visit her website to learn more at "The True Babe Ruth".
Enjoy the interview:
1. Babe Ruth connected for his first professional home run in Toronto in 1914 and has been a part of Canadian folklore that the ball was never recovered from the lake where it landed off Hanlan’s Point. Are you aware of this and if so do you have any information on the game, home run or anything else about the incident?
My grandfather hit his first professional home run on Sept 5th, 1914 when he was with the International Team, the Providence Greys. It was hit at Old Hanlan’s Point Stadium in Toronto, Ontario, Canada against the Toronto Maple Leafs. The 19 year old Babe hit the home run over the right field fence and drove in the winning 3 runs. He also pitched a shut out and beat the Maple Leafs 9-0
2. Babe Ruth had his contract purchased after a successful minor league season as a pitcher and then had 2 seasons with over 20 wins as a member of the Boston Red Sox, what was the thought process to switch the Babe from the mound to the outfield. Was he hesitant or did he prefer hitting over pitching?
The last 2 years my grandfather was in St. Mary’s. Brother Mathis focused on his pitching. He would pitch for all the games around the city of Baltimore. He also pitched in the minor leagues. Boston knew of his swinging ability, but needed a pitcher when my grandfather came down. The last year he was in Boston they needed his mighty bat too and so on his off days from pitching, the Red Sox put him in right field. He played everyday!
Whether Babe liked pitching or batting, lets use his words; [quote]“As soon as I got there I felt a strange relationship with the pitcher’s mound. It was as if I’d been born out there. Pitching felt like the most natural thing in the world. Striking out batters was easy.”[/quote]
3. What are a few things about Babe Ruth that most people did not know about your grandfather?
When it came to children, there was nothing he would not do. He would go to the hospitals and ask to see the sickest children. When he entered the room all the kids went crazy. Children who could not sit up, did. The ones who could not walk, ran to him. They forgot they couldn't It must have been incredible to see! Wish I could have witnessed that! I had a 75 year old man come up to me at a golf tournament and wanted to tell me an important story. He said when he was 10 years old the priest would take a few boys to the game once a month. After the game he said “I was waiting for an autograph from Babe with a lot of other kids.” I said how cool. He said “no what I want to tell you is I was the very last kid, and it was getting dark. You grandfather was there for a very long time. He waited for me!” The second thought after thanking him for the delightful story and proud of what my grandfather did, was wonder what player nowadays will have that said about them.
When Babe was in Hawaii he went to see the Lepers. The Yankees said no, but he went anyway. Him, the priest, and a boatman went to the island where my grandfather spent the whole day with the Lepers. When asked if he was worried he would get sick, he replied no, and if he did, it would be God’s will. When asked why he went, he said that there was no way they could come to him so he went to them. I wonder if I could have been that brave?
Babe stood up for what he believed in. He barnstormed and was friends with the Negro Leagues. He told Judge Landis that the Negro players were great and should be in the Major Leagues. As “Double Duty” Radcliffe, a Negro League player told me in 1997, “They tried to shut your grandpa up, but he wouldn't be shut up”. He actually started what Jackie finished.
He also as a prominent German signed an Anti Nazi ad in the NY Times against the Holocaust in 1942. It came out when there was a Pro Nazi Rally in NY! His name was important. Fans knew if Babe was concerned it was something to be paid attention to.
He brought baseball to the corners of North and South Dakota, and other states that never saw major league games. If there was bad weather and the seats were filled he would make the barnstorming team play or he would go out and hit balls to please the crowd that were there to see him. He never disappointed!
My grandfather made home runs out of pitches in the dirt! No self respecting pitcher ever threw a good ball at Babe! If he met up with a new pitcher that got the better of him, it only happened once! Next time he faced the same pitcher he would have the pitchers number.
4. What was the motive behind the Babe being sold to the Yankees and how did he feel about the deal at the time?
The note on the Red Sox was due and Harry Frazee needed money. He had invested heavy in Broadway shows. (No, it was not “No No Nanette”) The only players of left that were worth it were Tris Speaker and Babe Ruth. So Tris went to the Detroit Tigers and Babe went to the New York Yankees. The players had no choice in the matter. Your contact was sold, you went. Babe was not really happy. He was settled, had a family and Home Plate Farm in Sudbury. But my grandfather would bloom where he was planted. If he could take a sleepy retirement city like St. Petersburg FL(where spring training was) and put it on the map, then New York City was tailor made for Babe Ruth. He was knee deep in a candy store!
5. What is story about the home run that Ruth called in the 1932 World Series and then delivered?
There was great tension between the teams. The 1932 World Series was Babe’s 10th and last World Series appearance. The Yankees had easily beaten the Cubs in the first two games at Yankee Stadium on the 28th and 29th of September. The teams travelled by train on the Century Limited on September 30th. The train was greeted by huge crowds at the LaSalle Street Station. There was bad blood between the Yankees and Cubs that year because a former Yankee (from their championship years ’26-28) name Mark Koenig had joined the Cubs in early August 1932 and batted .300 while helping propel the Cubs into the World Series after a torrid National League pennant race. However, the Cubs players voted Koenig only a half share of the World Series money. Babe was openly critical of the Cubs and called them a ‘bunch of cheapskates and pikers’. Police escorted taxis arrived at the hotel the Yankees were staying at and the entrance was cordoned off due to the thousands who showed up to get a glimpse of the most recognizable name on the planet, Babe Ruth. Near the entrance to the hotel a group of women were shouting profanities at Babe. Babe was with his second wife, Claire. The women spit and hit Claire. As Babe rushed into the hotel he was shocked. He told Claire and Grantland Rice (the famous sportswriter that he’d settle the score with those fans on the field the next day.
The Cubs’ starting pitcher for the next day, Charlie Root had said (Chicago Tribune) that he had figured out how to contain the Yankee bats, and he knew how to pitch to Babe Ruth. During batting practice on October 1, 1932 Babe ripped nine straight shots into the Wrigley Field stands. The Cubs’ players were of course stunned to see the Yankee fire power. The name calling had already begun. Babe took it as part of the game. In the first inning Babe hit the first pitch from Charlie Root for a three run home run. So much for knowing how to contain the Babe! As the game wore on the Cubs and Yankees exchanged barbs. By the fifth inning the score was tied 4-4. Joe Sewell led off the top of the 5th and grounded out short to first. When Babe came up the Cubs were on the top step of the dugout calling Babe every dirty name they could think of. Babe laughed at them. Charlie Root was still pitching and got a called strike on the outside corner. Babe thought it was outside. The next two pitches were inside and one close to Babe. Strike two on the outside corner. Babe stepped out of the batter’s box. His bat still on his shoulder, he pointed over to the Cubs’ dugout, swept his arm across the field and pointed out beyond Charlie Root to the right-center field bleachers near the flagpole atop the bleachers. Still grinning, Babe stepped back into the batter’s box. Charlie Root delivered a pitch low and outside. Babe swung. The ball started out as a low line drive and gained height as it sailed over the center fielder, Johnny Moore who took two steps back and watched it slam into the spot next to the flagpole where Babe had pointed two a few seconds ago. The Cubs’ bench fell back to their seats silent. Babe, who was called such filthy names that day laughed his way around the bases, waving at the Cubs now in their deathbed dugout. Babe pointed for sure! Many at the game from announcers to a future Supreme Court justice and FDR witnessed the most incredible display of confidence and power from the greatest most influential man who ever played any sport in any country at any time in the history of the world…George Herman Ruth!
6. Who were the Babe’s closest teammates and friends that he played with and do you know any funny stories about them?
Babe was a team player and got along great with his team mates. They would call him “Jidge” which is a nickname for George. Not many called him Babe in the locker room. He would be very generous with his money and time. He would loan money and finance businesses and then not ask for the money back. If they went to eat together he would happily pay the bill. He never bragged about who he met or what he did. He even made them attend church on Sundays! There is the classic story about the collection plate. When it came in front of Ruth, he threw in $100. Tony Lazzeri said “What are you doing, trying to make up for last night?”
There was the time Babe nailed Lazzari’s shoes to the floor and put eggs in the toes. Tony got back by cutting a leg off of his very expensive white shark skin suit. There was my grandfather standing outside the stadium signing autographs with his leg hanging out.
One day Lefty Gomez pulled a serious prank on my grandfather. Babe would put saline eye drops in his eyes to wash out the dust. Lefty replaced his saline with kerosene! It smarted, but Babe hit a home run anyway!
Another friend of his that talked a lot about Babe’s humanitarian works was Waite Hoyt. He loved my grandfather. When my grandfather dies his quote was... “Every big leaguer and his wife should teach their children to pray, God bless Mommy, God bless Daddy, and God bless Babe Ruth.”
7. Do you think Major League Baseball will ever retire his number and where are you in your quest to have his number retired once and for all?
I hope they will. I know the fans and I will not stop asking. This is the greatest ball player who still stands alone when held up to other players. He revolutionized the game of baseball and is the blueprint writer for the home run! Babe changed the face of baseball for the better! His impact on the game and his fans are still felt today. They are trying to manufacture a Babe Ruth for the home runs with this terrible blight on baseball, steroids.
He saved baseball from the 1919 Black Sox Scandal. He brought excitement and respectability back to the game and people back to the parks and stadiums, franchise by franchise while getting the gamblers out. They built him a stadium just to hold his fans that came to see him! We would not be watching baseball as we know it if there was no Babe Ruth. That alone deserves the retirement!
He was a world Ambassador. He took the game he loved to countries around the world.
I may add his courage to stand up for what he believed it and thought was right. The Holocaust, the Negro Leagues, and other unfair acts against his fellow man.
Commissioner Selig has not retired the number. He has not talked about it. I do think it is time for baseball to honour Babe. They never really have. His fans honour him everyday and keep him in their hearts. He is remembered...but it is time for baseball to step up and honour Babe Ruth. We may have to wait for the next commissioner.
I will tell you. I would like to just see the #3 hanging in every stadium where the game my grandfather impacted so much, is played. I do not want a game played every year with players all wearing #3. (Ok maybe once. The first year it is retired, for the honour, then never again!) I would even leave the number for players who want to use it on the field. You think of one person when you see the #3...Babe Ruth!
8. What was the Babe like away from the diamond, what were his hobbies or things that occupied his time other than baseball?
He loved to hunt. I can attest from my Mom, Dorothy, her and Babe ate everything he shot! Babe loved to try all sports. He loved to play basketball, bowling, swimming, handball, football at Notre Dame, with “Wild” Bill Kelly. In his earlier days, he loved to box. His friend Jack Dempsey told him that baseball paid better. He tried Tennis, Cricket, Pool, swimming, and he loved to horseback ride and did it every chance he could. Of course we can not forget his golfing!
9. What baseball related accomplishments were the Babe most proud of and who did he look up to and try to emulate?
Babe Ruth’s idol was “Shoeless Joe Jackson. He kind of fashioned his swing at the beginning like Jackson’s. In his earlier days he had his bats whittled by the same man who whittled his Joe’s.
My grandfather was the proudest of his pitching record of 29 2/3 consecutive scoreless innings he pitched while he was with the Boston Red Sox in the 1918 World Series.
10. Do you have any other interesting Babe Ruth stories that would interest readers?
My grandfather was very confident in what he could do. If you focus on a talent from the age of 7 and do it all your life, I imagine you could do it very well. I think my grandfather could do just about anything with a bat and a baseball. This is why I know he pointed. Was I there? Of course not. But Chicago is not the only place he pointed. He did it all the time, when he barnstormed and even in Japan.
There were many Johnny Sylvester's. He called them “Homers On Order”. He could promise the kids and fulfill his promises!
When it came to managing in 1934. It was written that by some author “that he can not manage himself, how can he manage a team?” No one ever said that! He did get a chance to manage a team. If you read a great book, “Banzai Babe” by Robert Fitz, you will read how he managed the team in all the games. Connie Mack believed in him. The guys played their hearts out for Babe. See my grandfather NEVER held a grudge. He corrected the guys, then it was gone with the wind. Everyone loved Babe. Connie said, you’re my guy Babe. Your going to manage the Athletics. When they got home, Landis stopped it as he had all Babe’s other chances to manage. Connie used some bogus excuse about Claire for the reason Babe would not be managing the Athletics.
I also want fans to know that my grandfather did not die from living his lifestyle as written in at least 10 books! His cancer was not caused by smoking cigars and partying. He had a tumour behind his nose. It was a rare genetic cancer found in Asian people. Babe had come into contact with the Epstein-Barr Virus in Japan and they think it turned into this cancer. He would have gotten it even if he lived the healthiest lifestyle. His voice was raspy because they nicked his vocal cords when they removed the tumour. He never smoked cigarettes, he said “they stole his wind”.
The last year of his life in 1947 and being as sick as he was he still travelled for the fans. When asked why, he replied that he wanted to get to any many children as he could in the time he had left. He travelled with a nurse.
The last thing I would like to tell the fans is that they were Babe’s family and he loved making them happy. The louder you clapped the better he did. In Japan in 1934 he was retiring so his game was not where it once was. When he got to Japan and the people celebrated him and thought him a God, he played his heart out for them and played like a teenager! He responded to the love. He hit home run after home run and took home 3 of the 4 bronze trophies that were given as trophies.
Babe Ruth was always inclusive with people, never exclusive! He was a rollercoaster ride and asked everyone to jump on with him!
I have said it before and I say it again. My mother, Dorothy Ruth Pirone, told me when I discovered who my grandfather was, that I did not hit the ball. I was lucky to be born into this legacy and it was my job to give back and never expect in the name. I have listened and she was right, I am a very lucky granddaughter with an incredible legacy. I try to give back and never expect. But I will say I do get something from what I do. A true understanding of an American Icon and meeting some incredible people who still love Babe it to this day!