So we’re at our place in Maine the other day, and the Wife comes home,
walks into my office, and says, “I just talked to a guy who met Babe
I turn from my computer monitor, a leery expression on my face.
“And Joe D., I bet,” I say.
She frowns. “Actually he saw DiMaggio play the outfield in
Yankee Stadium and described how he never dove to catch a ball, but
always seemed to glide on under it. Now do you want to listen or
shouldn’t I bother?”
You can guess what I do, being good at self-preservation. Lucky
thing I pay attention, too, because it’s a little gem of an anecdote.
Let me set it up for you: The Wife has a loose group of
sports-fan friends and acquaintances in the area, and she often runs
into them when she leaves the house — a rarity for me except when I’m
going to baseball games. Many of these people have lived awhile.
Conrad, for instance, is a World War II veteran and Yankee fan. Last
year, I think around Christmastime, he gave us a beautiful, customized
New York Yankees baseball bat as a gift. He’d made it in his workshop,
Then there’s another guy, Dil, which just might be short for
Dillard. He mostly loves football. A major New York Giants fan, he
wears his Big Blue gear summer and winter. Over a year after the Giants
won the Super Bowl, he’s still sticking it to his Pats buddies around
So, The Wife’s talking baseball with these two, and maybe another member of her crew, when another
guy overhears them moseys up to join the powwow. Turns out he’s another
lifelong football Giants fan, born and raised in New York. As a kid, he
was also a Yankees fan, but flipped — shudder — to rooting for the Red
Sox sometime after moving to New England. His loyalty to the Giants
hasn’t wavered, however. For some reason, he claims Giants fan
allegiances are unassailable.
Anyway, it’s this guy, whose name I promise I’ll get you in the near future, that tells the Ruth story.
It seems that back in the 1930s and ’40s, The Babe hosted, or co-hosted
several radio programs. One was a short-lived CBS show called Here’s Babe Ruth. Another was called Baseball Quiz.
It had several runs on the NBC radio network between 1943 and 1944, and
aired on Saturdays in front of a live studio audience.
Here’s where The Wife’s new friend comes in.
One weekend when he was a kid, the guy’s dad took him and his brother to see The Babe do his Baseball Quiz show,
which he remembers as having been broadcast out of New Jersey — likely
it was WJZ in downtown Newark, the second station in the country to be
licensed for radio, and a pioneer in baseball programming. The Babe had
a regular segment for audience questions at the end of the show, and
the boys had spent a lot of time brainstorming one in advance, in case
they were lucky enough to be chosen.
When the Wife’s friend got picked, he was keyed up with excitement.
“If you were putting together an All-Star team, what players would you have on it?” he asked, proud he’d been ready.
The Babe looked at him a moment from behind his microphone.
“Kid,” he boomed with a huge grin, “that’s too big a question for me this late in the day!”
All these years later, the guy remembers it as a perfect Ruthian moment.
He’s got plenty of other firsthand baseball memories from the old days,
like that vivid recollection of DiMaggio gliding across the outfield.
And, get this — he told The Wife he didn’t think anybody would be
interested in them.
I’m going to have breakfast with him soon and get you some more of his stories.
Not to mention his name.
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