10/02/07 - ruth and reporting

In today's excerpt - Babe Ruth benefits from a different standard of reporting in the 1920s:

"The writers of the time ... reported much less than future generations would. Especially about the Babe. ... Was it news that he was drunk again late at night? Was it news that he had been with one, two, three women who were not his wife? ...

"An example: [New York Times reporter Richards] Vidmer [and other players] would often play bridge in the Babe's hotel room on the long barnstorming trips back from spring training. ... The phone would always ring. Vidmer would always answer.

" 'Is Babe Ruth there?' a woman's voice would ask.

" 'No, he's not here right now' Vidmer would reply. 'This is his secretary. Can I tell him who called?'

" 'This is Mildred. Tell him Mildred called.'

" 'Mildred ...'

"Vidmer would look at the Babe. The Babe would shake his head, no, not here, not for Mildred.

" 'I'm sorry' Vidmer would say. 'He's not here right now, but I'll tell him you called ...'

"Invariably, the Babe would have instant second thoughts. Invariably, he would sprint across the room and grab the phone.

" 'Hello babe. Come on up.'

" 'And she'd come up and interrupt the bridge game for ten minutes or so', Vidmer said. 'They'd go in the other room. Pretty soon, they'd come out and the girl would leave. Babe would say, 'So long kid,' or something like that. Then he'd sit down and we'd continue our bridge game. That's all. That was it. While he was absent, we'd sit and talk wait for him.' ...

"Fred Lieb always told the story about the woman chasing Ruth with a knife through the Pullman car in Shreveport during spring training in 1921 as the train was almost ready to leave for New Orleans. Ruth was running as fast as he could, and the dark-haired, dark-eyed woman, said to be the wife of a Louisiana legislator, was five feet behind him. Ruth pounded through the car, jumped off the train, then jumped back on as it was leaving, the woman back on the platform.

"Eleven writers, playing cards, watched the whole thing. None of them wrote a word. 'Well', Bill Slocum of the Morning American said as the card game continued, 'if she had carved up the Babe, we really would have had a hell of a story.' "


Leigh Montville


The Big Bam: The Life and Times of Babe Ruth


Broadway Books


Copyright 2006 by Leigh Montville


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