Babe Ruth hits a home run in Baltimore

During his legendary major league baseball career, Babe Ruth, aka George Herman Ruth, one of Baltimore’s greatest sons, hit 714 home runs. Well, he just hit another one out of the ball park! And, this one fits a popular phrase from automobile mega-sales gal, Krystal Koons, “We’re gonna to WOW ya!”

A riveting documentary on the Babe, inducted in the Hall of Fame, in 1936, has just been released. It paints his fabulous sports career, and his life as a global celebrity, on a huge canvas with a wide brush. Using Greek mythological tones, writ large, its title is “American Hercules: Babe Ruth.” It also spotlights his flaws.unnamed-2A private screening of the compelling documentary was shown Thursday at the Charles Theatre in Baltimore. Michael Gibbons, Executive Director of the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum, did a fine job hosting the program. He set the stage for the viewing of the film before a near capacity audience.

The special viewing, contributions required, benefitted the “Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation.”

Ably assisting Gibbons in the program were Nick Trotta, an official with Major League Baseball (MLB), and Charles Poe (no relation to our beloved Edgar), from the Smithsonian. The MLB and the Smithsonian are the film’s co-producers. The DVD is available online. The Smithsonian will be broadcasting the documentary on its cable channel. Trotta was the brainchild for the project.

Charley Poe (l) and Nick Trotta (r)
Charley Poe (l) and Nick Trotta (r)

The producers wisely picked actor Martin Sheen (and not bad boy Charley) to narrate the film. Martin is a real pro and his voice is just right to capture all the magic and heroics that was the Babe’s. He lived 53 years on the planet and died in New York City, in 1948.

The Babe had a rough childhood. He was born and reared, until age seven, in Southwest Baltimore, and baptized at St. Peter the Apostle RC Church, (now closed), His mom was an alcoholic and his father had emotionally abandoned him. He spent his formative years, from age 7 to 19, at St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, (where Cardinal Gibbons HS is located today), under the mentorship of the wise and caring Brother Matthias of the Xaverian Order.

Baseball was the Babe’s way out of his personal Hell. After a stint with the minor league Baltimore Orioles, Babe started his major league career; first with the Boston Red Sox, and then moved onto the New York Yankees. He played from 1914-35 in the big leagues.

When the Babe arrived on the major league baseball scene, it was still recovering from the “Black Sox Scandal.” It was also an era of the “dead ball,” where home runs were few and far between. The Babe’s mighty swing for the fences would transfix the sport, and bring millions of new fans into the seats at ball parks across the country. One of the Babe’s nicknames was “The King of Swat.”

This documentary, with its archival material, is not for everyone. You won’t see and hear that pompous Neocon pundit, George Will, pontificating on baseball insider trivia. Lord, I’m so happy for his exclusion. Think more Joseph Campbell!

It is, however, a brilliant study on how the Babe and his saga, patterned after the exploits and struggles of the Greek’s Hercules, impacted, on a mythical level, not only baseball, but America and the world at large. And, the wonder of it all is how the Babe, (like another sports’ hero, Muhammed Ali), has become part of our collective psyches.

Indeed, the colossal, timeless figure of the superhero Babe, continues to persist and grow.