George Herman “Babe” Ruth was the greatest baseball player of his era and perhaps of any era. He revolutionized the game of baseball, bringing about a new era in American sports. His career was the stuff of legends: 714 Home Runs, .342 career batting average, and by the way he began as a pitcher. He racked up a 94-46 record with a 2.28 ERA. In post-season, he was superb, as a hitter he hit .326 with 15 homers, and as a pitcher he was 3-0 with an 0.80 ERA. The Babe has held the record for most Home Runs in the American League for 90 years.
The Babe was also a big personality whose place in American folklore remains strong to this day. What most people don’ t know is that Babe Ruth’s adventures were also the focus of an Old Time Radio program.
The Adventures of Babe Ruth were released originally in 1934 as a syndicated program sponsored by Quaker Oats. The year after Babe died, the series was rerun with the Navy as the sponsor. This made sense for the Navy as many young men who were of age to join the Navy hadn’t even heard the Babe play and much of the information about him came secondhand.
The Adventures of Babe Ruth episodes that are in circulation are from this Navy syndication. They portray Babe’s good sportsmanship, generosity, and compassion. The stories are told by Steve Martin, a sports writer who knew the Babe and helped write for him.
The stories are either fictional, or probably fictionalized. The writers were under the apparent impression that for any story to truly be dramatic, it has to be the seventh game of the World Series or the Pennant coming down to the last game of the season and I fact checked a couple of these stories and couldn’t find the Yankees having played under the circumstances described. In the episode, “Dutch Reaver,” the Babe is left to manage the team on the last day of the season with the pennant on the line. A fantastic story by any means as: 1) no manager would take the last day of the season off if the pennant were on the line and 2) The Yankees refusal to let the Babe manage led to his leaving the Yankees. To believe that the club would place him in charge at this crucial point is fantastic. Of course, the game in question didn”t happen either.
However, the episodes do a great job of portraying the Babe’s willingness to help other guys who had similar rough edges to the ones he had coming up. Whether the stories were strictly true or not, they portrayed the side of Babe that America fell in love with.
Of course, like the William Bendix movie, The Babe Ruth Story, The Adventures of Babe Ruth did ignore many of the Babe’s flaws. However, this may be preferable to the approach of John Goodman’s 1992 film which seemed to gloss over Babe’s good points to focus on his flaws.
The truth is that Babe’s strengths outlasted his wild days early in his career. He continued to work with and reach out to kids and be a great good will ambassador for baseball.
The Adventures of Babe Ruth while by no means a perfect picture of the Bambino provides a great profile of the characteristics that made Babe more than a sports legend, but a personality Americans truly admired.
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