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Babe Ruth would have broken baseball's color barrier as manager, daughter says

Posted by Obnoxious Boston Fan  March 10, 2014 10:29 PM

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Babe Ruth embracing his wife Claire, left, and his daughter Julia during a trip to Paris.

If Babe Ruth had his way, he would have intergrated baseball a decade before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in 1947.

That is the conclusion of his daughter, Julia Ruth Stevens, who gave an lengthy interview to the New York Times about her late father and his life off the diamond.

Stevens, now 97, told the Times that her father never had a chance to manage because teams feared he would bring up a black ballplayer. Ruth's playing career ended in with the Boston Braves in 1935, a team he wanted to manage.

"Daddy would have had blacks on his team, definitely," Stevens said.

The story adds:

Ruth also was known to frequent New York City's Cotton Club and befriended black athletes and celebrities. He once brought Bill Robinson, a tap-dancer and actor known as Bojangles, into the Yankees' clubhouse. Robinson also was with Ruth during the 1932 World Series in Chicago, and at the game when Ruth was said to have called his home run. When Ruth died in August 1948, Robinson was an honorary pallbearer.

She still calls Ruth "Daddy" even though he died in 1948, at age 53, and she's closing in on a full century.

Great stuff.

Stevens discusses her father's infamous "600-foot" home run he, legend has it, hit during a spring training game in St. Petersburg, Fla., on March 25, 1934 against the Boston Braves. According to a Boston Herald report cited in the Times piece: "Ruth sent a pitch from Hucks Betts "10,000 leagues to right field, carrying, far over the canvas and almost into the West Coast Inn."

The most surprising part of the piece was Ruth's reaction to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. Ruth had participated in several baseball goodwill tours of Japan in the 1920s and '30s. Stevens joined her parents on a tour of the country in 1934.

"To say he was upset would be putting it mildly," she said. "He was furious. Mother and Daddy had brought back mementos from Japan. But Daddy started throwing them out of the window of our apartment at 110 Riverside Drive. Mother was so concerned that he was going to get arrested for throwing objects out the window that she began to grab things before Daddy could get to them."

A year later, Ruth would join several other prominent German-Americans in taking out a large ad in the denouncing Hitler.

It pains Stevens when she reads that her father was unintelligent, or that he was an unrestrained carouser. She said her father was smart, had settled down, and was concerned about social issues. She said he was someone who befriended blacks and Jews when it was not popular. On Christmas in 1942, Ruth joined 49 other prominent Americans of German descent in publicly denouncing Adolf Hitler. Their 'Christmas Declaration' appeared in [10 newspapers.]

Thinking the Bambino and Friends were a just a bit too late on that call.

And by the way, Stevens is not a big fan of the "horrible" movie "The Babe Ruth Story," which starred William Bendix as the Bambino, which premiered just prior to his death.

Given what's passed off as interesting internet content these days, this one is definitely a must-read.

[Check out the full Times story here.]

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