Babe Ruth family Christmas card, 1930s.
During the 1930s, Babe Ruth, one of the most famous men in America, would dress as Santa Claus at Christmastime and distribute gifts and meals to children and families in need.
In 1931, dressed as Santa, Babe Ruth visited more than 250 kids in New York hospitals. (Yes, that’s plural. He visited hospitals, not just one.)
It was one of New York’s warmest Decembers and Babe’s costume was so heavy, he sweated through his beard.
As The Washington Post reported:
“‘Whew,’ he said grinning, ‘This is tougher than a double-header, but more fun.’ … The Babe, who was an orphan himself, carved a huge leg off a huge bird for little crippled George Meixner and watched George go at it. Then he listened enraptured while Dorothy Nixon, 10, sang some grand old songs.”
(OK, so the Babe wasn’t really an orphan, but he did have a rough Baltimore childhood and was sent to St. Mary’s Industrial School, an orphanage/reform school, as a child.)
The 1930s was the Great Depression and Ruth did the Santa thing a lot. Distributing gifts to poor children, meals to families, and spreading cheer. Sure, it may have not been his idea. But, maybe it was. Who’s to know?
Decked out as Santa, he certainly embraced the role.
Babe recalled his 1932 outing in The Baltimore Sun:
“But, boy, do I get hot in them whiskers? Say, last Christmas I went down to a place with a lot of kids and one of them got in that beard and another was head first in the sack and two more climbed up on my neck and my hat got knocked off.”
A few rambunctious kids didn’t stop him. When he was done playing Santa, he changed into his street clothes and came back to surprise the kids with a visit from Babe Ruth and sign autographs.
Ruth was a hero to children. Add a red suit and beard and I just know that “Santa Babe” was one of the greatest Santas ever.
I wish he was still around and could bring you some holiday cheer and a present. Or, a hot dog and a beer. I know “Santa Babe” would be all right with that, too, don’t you?
Instead, I have one last little Secret Santa gift for you.
It’s from 1932. It’s Babe Ruth. It’s short, sweet, wonderful. Happy Holidays!
“There’s baseball to be played!”