Apart from the all too rare video clips of George Herman “Babe” Ruth, I never had the opportunity to see the greatest of them all play. What a sight that must have been watching the man who looked like a company three pitch softball player dominate his era both on the mound early in his career and later in the batters box, doing things no one else could match and no one else had ever done.
I interviewed many players during my two seasons covering Triple-A baseball and one beautiful summer evening when the home team were losing badly and the game was still in the early stages we began discussing what it must have been like to interview the Babe. What would it be like to visit him in that diamond in the sky and get his thoughts on
baseball in the 21st century?
Babe, you’re looking good these days.
Babe: Well there’s not much to do here you know. The old timers and me play everyday but no doubleheaders. That’s one reason they call it baseball heaven. Those twin bills on hot days were tough and I didn’t get paid anymore for playing both ends ya know. We only get wine to drink and the women don’t seem as much fun as down there.
Doubleheaders are pretty much a thing of the past nowadays.
Babe: That’s good. Guys these days have it so easy compared to them days. They’re all makin’ more money than the President and they get that free month in Florida or Arizona in March. Everyone gets a raise every year and half of ’em miss games with hang nails!
Well it’s a much more demanding game today with all the travel and night games all the relief specialists. The press is always scrutinizing every pitch and television sets the 162-game schedule and the playoffs get longer every year it seems.
Babe: They have way too many teams. Too many games too. Where do they find time to play golf? Half of those guys wouldn’t even be in the bigs in my day. Too many playoffs too. In my day you had to finish first or you didn’t make that World Series dough. We needed that extra money you know, not like today. I tried watching a game the other day but it didn’t start until 4 PM and it lasted pretty near four hours with all those commercials. What is all that junk they try and sell you anyway? I already know that beer is good for you and I own a car. And the broads like ’em both so what else do you need?
What are your thoughts on the steroid era and performance enhancing drugs in general?
Babe: I didn’t need that stuff. Gimme a few beers, some champagne and as many hot dogs as I could buy during the game and I was ready to play. I mean, I needed that stuff cause I didn’t get to sleep ’til what the boss used to call the wee hours. Ping Bodie said he didn’t room with me, he roomed with my suitcase. Management was always yakking at me for something, either getting in shape or getting my rest or chasing too many women or drinking too much. Hey, I had to do somethin’ between games.
Do you think the home run stats of Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez et al should count?
Babe: I don’t know about that et al guy but the only two fellas I’ve seen near good as me would be Aaron and Mays. I played against that Josh Gibson fella a couple of times too and he was might good I’ll tell ya. I play against them up here and they’re still pretty good. That Satchel Paige guy I can’t seem to hit at all. He throws that funny stuff. You know, I hit 715 and that a’int bad. That seemed like plenty at the time. I can’t speak for those fellas you mentioned.
If you were the commissioner of baseball today what changes or improvements would you make?
Babe: I’d treat the ex players a lot better. A lot of us were broke when we left the game and a lot of us weren’t offered nuthin’ when we left. I wanted to manage but they said I didn’t have enough experience. Heck, I played enough years, what more experience did I need? There wasn’t nuthin’ for me after baseball. What was I gonna do? Become a bank teller? I didn’t have no education and baseball was all I knew how to do. I built Yankee Stadium at least that’s what they said. That weren’t nuthin! I wouldn’t pay those rookies all that money either. Let them earn it. They gotta learn their place. And stop trying to make baseball like every other sport. It’s different, that’s what makes it still the greatest game there is.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Babe: Well, I’d like to but the guys are hollerin’ for me to come play ball so I better go. Tell that Selig guy to stop messin’ around with the game. Tell my fans I miss ’em.
With that the Babe left me sitting and wondering what it must have been like to see him play. I sure wish I knew.