Everyone Knew Her As Babe

Dear Mom,

If you were still around, I wonder what you’d think about how things are today. I bet you’d be sitting at the kitchen table with that bemused look on your face that seemed to say, “How did I end up surrounded by so many idiots?” You wouldn’t roll your eyes. You wouldn’t say a word. You’d just have a look. That look. That look of bemused and deep, utter disappointment. You’d take another sip of coffee and not say a word.

You wouldn’t believe the mess we’re in these days, Mom. I’m rationing flour like it’s gold dust. I overbought eggs – just in case those are in short supply next. I rarely leave my house and when I do I have to wear a mask.

I know how you worry, Mom. But, really, don’t.  I promise you, the cats are ok.

I miss you. I love you.

My Mom was named Julie. Well, technically, Julie Ann. But, pretty much everyone called her Babe.

Babe

A lot of her friends probably didn’t even know what her real name was. To them, she was just Babe.

She was Babe because she was the youngest in her family, but that didn’t stop me from, on occasion, suggesting to her that she was named after Babe Ruth – which didn’t go over well. Or, Babe the Blue Ox – which went over even worse.

(My mom had just one sibling, an older sister who everyone called Sis. Editor/Husband wonders what Sis was called in the years before my mom was born – before “Sis” officially became someone’s sister. I am guessing her pre-“Sis” nickname was “Child.” Creativity in nicknaming was not my family’s strong suit.)

Public Domain

Other Babe

My mom was born in the summer of 1929 – a good, but not great, year for Babe Ruth who, at age 34 in a not-great year, was still able to lead baseball with 46 home runs. He swatted his 500th career homer on August 11, just 24 days after my mom was born. These incidents were, as far as I know, unrelated.

My mom would have approved of the move by the Yankees that spring when they became the first baseball team to put numbers on their uniforms. My mom would have wondered why no one had bothered doing this earlier – as numbers are obviously helpful for fans and help make sorting jerseys easier on laundry day. Stylish, too.

There were “stout objections” to the Yankees move, some reporters noted at the time, adding that fans should be expected to identify players without numbers.

My mom would say she has more important things to do than memorize a bunch of baseball faces.

Public Domain

See how nice that looks?

I think she would wonder why some teams today, including the Yankees, still can’t be bothered to put players’ names on jerseys. She would point out that basketball teams have numbers and names on their jerseys and there are just 10 players on a basketball court at any one time to keep track of.

Do not argue with my mom’s logic.

I wish I could tell you that Babe Ruth hit a home run on the day my mom was born.

How perfect!

But, no.

The Yankees were coming off a four-game split in Detroit and Tuesday, July 18, 1929 was a travel day as the team headed to Cleveland.

Ruth needed that day off and then some. In a game in Detroit, he collapsed while chasing a ball in the 7th inning of a Yankees loss and teammates had to carry him off the field. His injury – a sprained left knee, pulled leg muscle, torn groin muscle, torn knee muscle  – depended on what paper you were reading.

The New York Times, 7/18/1929

Ruth’s in the line-up against Cleveland the next day, July 19 – the first game of a doubleheader. He walks in the first inning, but hobbles badly to second on a Tony Lazzeri single, and is pulled from the game.

After leaving the game “Ruth passed the afternoon with a very gloomy expression and was moved to remark that he would resume his normal operations in three or four days, a prophesy which is open to doubt,” New York’s Daily News reported.

The paper included a photo of Ruth’s new wife Claire solemnly bandaging his leg in a Cleveland hospital.

Reports were grim …

El Paso Herald, 7/20/1929

Camden NJ Courier-Post, 7/20/1929

The York PA Dispatch, 7/20/1929

Very grim …

Los Angeles Evening Express, 7/20/1929

Spokane WA Spokesman Review, 7/20/1929

Tampa Times, 7/20/1929

Very, very grim …

Wilkes-Barre, PA Evening News, 7/20/1929

Madison WI Capital Times, 7/20/1929

But, wait …

Salt Lake Telegram, 7/21/1929

Ruth shows up the next day in Game 2 of the July 20 doubleheader with Cleveland,  “limping badly” to the batter’s box as a pinch hitter for shortstop Leo Durocher. He strikes out.

(Back-to-back doubleheaders. You noticed that, too?)

The next day, the still-ouchy Ruth pinch hits again – this time for pitcher Waite Hoyte – and singles.

“I can go up there and swing,” Ruth told The New York Times, “but I can’t promise to run out any home runs inside the park. … It feels so much better today that I think I will be back in the line-up in about three or four days.”

The New York Times was not so sure, concluding, “[I]t is a fact that exactly the same condition has marked the end of active ball playing for a great many players.”

Not so fast there, New York Times.

South Bend IN Tribune, 7/21/1929

The Baltimore Sun, 7/25/1929

Ruth misses just one more game before rejoining the regular line-up on July 24.

“The Bambino failed to get a hit, but performed without a trace of a limp,” the Associated Press reports.

Public Domain

Cedric Durst

Random trivia alert: Ruth was replaced in the line-up by Cedric Durst, a Texan who played four seasons with the Yankees, filling in whenever the regular Yankees outfielders Ruth, Earl Combs, or Bob Meusel needed a day off. With a career .244 batting average, Durst wasn’t much of a murderer on Murderers’ Row.

Babe Ruth’s first home run after his injury didn’t come for a few more days – on July 27, he lifted a solo shot deep to right in a 5-3 win over the St. Louis Browns.

Tampa Tribune, 7/28/1929

My mom was nine days old. These incidents were, as far as I know, unrelated.

After three straight World Series appearances, and back-to-back wins in 1927 and ’28, 1929 just wasn’t the Yankees year – that was already clear by July. There was no way they could match the steam-rolling Philadelphia A’s who went 104-46 in the regular season and won the World Series. The Yankees finished in second place in the American League – 18 games back.

Babe Ruth would go on to win one more World Series, in 1932, and become one of the most cherished players in baseball history. My mom would go on, 29 years after Babe’s last World Series, to become my mom. Also cherished.

These incidents were, as far as I know, unrelated.

I’m the one on the left

My mom passed away in 2007. I still miss her. I think of her every day, including whenever Babe Ruth comes up – in an interview, a book, a story, a conversation. Because everyone knew her, too, as Babe.

4 thoughts on “Everyone Knew Her As Babe

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