We all have heard about my grandfathers feats on the diamond, but I am most proud of what he did off the field.
Article published Dec 25, 2007
Sultan of Swat
December 25, 2007
By Rafael Medoff - Baseball players using steroids. A star football player jailed for cruelty to dogs. A basketball referee caught changing his calls to suit gamblers.
At a time when prominent sports figures are all too frequently associated with unethical behavior, it is worth recalling that 65 years ago this week, one of the world's most prominent athletes used his fame for a most noble purpose. That athlete was Babe Ruth, and the issue that moved him to make a rare foray into international affairs was the Holocaust.
Throughout the spring and summer of 1942, the Allied leadership received a steady flow of reports about German massacres of tens of thousands of Jewish civilians. Information reaching the Roosevelt administration in August revealed that the killings were not random atrocities but part of a Nazi plan to systematically annihilate all of Europe's Jews. In late November, the State Department publicly verified this news and, on Dec. 17, the U.S. and British governments and their allies released a statement acknowledging and condemning the mass murder.
But aside from that Allied statement, there was little indication that the Roosevelt administration intended to do anything in response to the killings. There was no talk of opening America's gates or the gates of British-ruled Palestine to Jewish refugees. There was no talk of taking any steps to rescue the Jews. As quickly as the mass murder had been revealed, it began to fade from the public eye.
Dorothy Thompson was determined to keep that from happening. And Babe Ruth would help her.
Thompson (1893-1961), the first American journalist to be kicked out of Nazi Germany, was once described by Time magazine as one of the two most influential women in the United States, second only to Eleanor Roosevelt. In the autumn of 1942, Thompson contacted the World Jewish Congress with the novel idea of mobilizing German Americans to speak out against the Nazi persecution of the Jews.
As a journalist, Thompson understood the news value of German Americans protesting against Germany, especially in view of the well-publicized pro-Nazi sentiment in some segments of the German-American community. Just a few years earlier, more than 20,000 supporters of the German American Bund had filled Madison Square Garden for a pro-Hitler rally.
The World Jewish Congress agreed to foot the bill for publishing Thompson's anti-Nazi statement as a newspaper advertisement. During the last week of December 1942, the "Christmas Declaration by men and women of German ancestry," appeared as a full-page ad in the New York Times and nine other major daily newspapers.
"[W]e Americans of German descent raise our voices in denunciation of the Hitler policy of cold-blooded extermination of the Jews of Europe and against the barbarities committed by the Nazis against all other innocent peoples under their sway," the declaration began. "These horrors ... are, in particular, a challenge to those who, like ourselves are descendants of the Germany that once stood in the foremost ranks of civilization." The ad went on to "utterly repudiate every thought and deed of Hitler and his Nazis," and urged the people of Germany "to overthrow a regime which is in the infamy of German history."
The names of 50 prominent German-Americans adorned the advertisement. Among them were several notable academics, such as Princeton University Dean Christian Gauss and University of Maine President Arthur Mauck. Leading Protestant theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, news correspondent William Shirer and orchestra conductor Walter Damrosch appeared on the ad, as did Freda Kirchwey, editor of the political newsweekly the Nation, and Oswald Heck, speaker of the New York State Assembly.
But the signatory who was by far the best known to the American public was George Herman "Babe" Ruth.
Widely regarded as the greatest baseball player in the history of the game, Ruth, known as the Sultan of Swat, at that time held the records for the most home runs in a season (60) and most home runs in a career (714) as well as numerous other batting records. Having excelled as a pitcher before switching to the outfield and gaining fame as a hitter, the amazingly versatile Ruth even held the pitching record for the most shutouts in a season by a left-hander. Not surprisingly, Ruth was one of the first players elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.
By participating in this German-American protest against the Holocaust, Ruth used his powerful name to help attract public attention to the Jews' plight. Timing is everything, both on the baseball field and beyond, and the timing of Ruth's protest was crucial: Precisely at the moment when U.S. officials were hoping to brush the Jewish refugee problem aside, Babe Ruth helped keep it front and center.
In an era when professional athletes rarely lent their names to political causes, and when most Americans, including those in the Roosevelt administration, took little interest in the mass murder of Europe's Jews, Babe Ruth raised his voice in protest.Ruth's action is all the more memorable when one contrasts it with the kind of behavior that lands athletes on the front pages all too often these days.
Rafael Medoff is director of the David S. Wyman Institute for Holocaust Studies.
Having fun with Christy Walsh, his manager and ghost writer!
Anything he could do to help war effort
My grandfather speaks to a citizen group of young men in 1924
Saluting General Pershing in Washington D.C., after joining 104th Artillery National Guard. The General requested the visit.
My grandfather filled out the enlistment forms for World War One. He checked the box "No" which asked if he should be deferred. They did not take him. He was born with flat feet? He was a ball playerallplayer? Who knows.
During the year 1924 there was a large recruiting drive for the NY Army National Guard and Babe Ruth answered the call. In a swearing in ceremony which took place in Times Square in Manhattan on May 20, Private George Ruth was sworn in by the commander of the 104th Field Artillery Regiment, Colonel James Austin. The 104th was part of the largest Artillery regiment in the U.S. The regiment had seen action in France in World War One. Ruth enlisted into Battery D, 2nd Battalion whos home armory was on Broadway and 68th Street. Police had to barricade the Times Square area to keep the crowds back. The ceremony took place in front of six of Battery D's 75 Milimeter french guns and horses alonngside a detachment from the battery led by First Sergeant Adrian Jacques. After he swore in, Babe signed his enlistment contract on the barrel of one of the guns the jumped up on one of the horses for some photos. Ge rode the horse all the way to the armory as was tradition back then whn new memebers enlisted. Ten other men enlisted that day. All them had prior military service.
A week later on May 28th, he was summoned to Washington D.C. Genera; John "Black Jack" Pershing of World War One fame was the General of the Army and wanted to meet this famous recruit. Back in NY Babe couldn't find a uniform large enough to fit so while he was in Washington, he went to the Quartermaster General and found one his size. Looking sharp, he met the General and redered a crisp salute.
On July 17th, 1924, all the men of the regiment along with Colonel Austin stood on the field of Yankee Stadium. After marching around the entire field, they held formation. Babe Ruth himself held the D Battery guidon as photos were taken with the regiment and all the Yankee players.
Not much is known about my grandfather's service, other than how he helped signing for the war effort. He was allowed to continue playing baseball full time. It is said he enlisted for three years service. In 1924 he hit 46 home runs. 121 RBI's and had a .393 average. I wonder if he went to annual training that year. Back then it was called summer camp. In July, 1926 he did attend summer camp at Mitchell Field at Long Island in Army uniform. He also autographed balls and bats for the National Guard soldiers at other summer camps who were competing on the unit baseball teams. For a stunt he caught a baseball from a plane flying at 100 miles per hour and flying 250 feet. While I am sure Babe missed a few drills there is no doubt that he continued to serve for years.
A big footnote in history is Babe Ruth was arguably the greatest baseball player of all time but the small footnote in history is Private George H. Ruth, the Artillertman and New York Army National Guardsman who served his community and country with pride
Babe tried to enlist during World War Two
Yet again he was not taken so he did the best he could to help our country.
My grandfather made many appearances with Kate Smith. She adored him and he adored her! If he was single, who knows? LOL
Babe Ruth faces Walter "The Big Train" in 1942 for a exhibition for the Navy Relief Fund
Visiting after finally getting hit off Johnson
Babe Ruth & The Big Train in 1924
I met a fan of my grandfather's when I was at the Gwinnett Braves AAA game in Atlanta Georgia. His great Uncle grew a bat shaped gourd and showed it to Babe. Wonder if he could have hit a home run? Something tells me that the "bat" would not survive! Thank you to the great nephew for sharing this with me!