Pitchers and Catchers report within the next ten days, and that's the onset of the 2017 Major League Baseball season - and today, one day after Roger Staubach's birthday is a celebration of sorts of The Bambino's birthday.
George Herman Ruth was born in Baltimore on this day in 1895. He never knew his mamma, and was raised in his fathers lower scale rough and tumble saloon until he was about 10 or 11 years old when at last his father, tired of having a mischievous and somewhat clumsy adolescent underfoot shipped him off to a Catholic Home for Wayward Boys. As far as most records indicate, the child never saw his father again.
Much has been written about the lonely boy growing up in the orphanage under the strict Catholic supervision of Father Mathias and about his psyche and lifelong quest for one true friend or lasting personal relationship. One thing that stayed with him throughout his life though was his love and caring about kids, especially what we now call the underprivileged. The Babe was always first in line for a benefit or visiting sick kids in the hospital and encouraging them in any way he could.
During his life he was bigger than life. Imagine Muhammad Ali, Tom Brady and John Wayne mixed together with a splash of Johnny Depp. Today he'd be on the covers of not only sports magazines but the checkout line tabloids. Three main movies were made about his life, a sugar coating starring William Bendix, a disastrous mis-characterization of everything about Babe Ruth starring John Goodman, and a quieter lesser-known but probably more accurate treatment with Stephen Lang in the title role. The Babe had a few nicknames, 'Babe' of course was the the most well known, as well as the "Sultan of Swat", and infamously from the Seinfeld show's "Mr Steinbrenner" character - a 'fat man with skinny legs'. One thing he always seemed to be - a kid in a grownups body, full of laughs and fun.
He set baseball records that stood for decades in a time when his only 'performance enhancing drug' was draft beer and hot dogs, and rubbing the red hair of the Yankee bat-boy for good luck.
His home run record was broken ultimately by Hank Aaron. His other single season records shattered decades later by steroid-powered players, even sometimes with corked bats only at the end of the last century. I still only consider Aaron to have honestly broken Babes home run record, but that's an argument for another article.
I could write miles and miles of words about The Babe, his career as a pitcher, the trade by Boston to New York that 'cursed' the Red Sox for almost a century. His public outrages, his private demons, his movie appearances and Hollywood associations, the 'called shot', the outlandish partying, and his ongoing and never ending philanthropy especially in the arena of child care and charity. I encourage sports fans young and old to look these up and celebrate the man and the legend.
Born February 6, 1895 - succumbed to throat cancer August 16, 1948 at the age of only 53. Over one hundred thousand New Yorkers filed quietly past his casket as he lay in Yankee stadium.
The names come and go, but the legends and game goes on for all of us who are the boys of summer - if he were alive today I'm sure like me he'd be looking forward to Spring Training filled with hope and anticipation.
Happy Birthday Babe Ruth!