The Babe

Garrett Delgado, guest writer

It was a hot summer day in Baltimore, Maryland. The grass was green, and the wind whistled through the trees as my best friend George Herman Ruth, Jr. was headed to my house to go to the baseball fields. It was George’s daily ritual to go the fields and antagonize whoever was there and I would often tag along. “John, John Williams! Get over here,” George yelled from from outside my window.

“Who is that boy outside your window, John?” Mom asked from the downstairs kitchen.

“That is George, the boy who I have been telling you about. He’s the one I often leave to hangout with.”

“I’m not so sure how I feel about him, John.”

“Sorry Mom, got to go. I’ll be back home before sundown,” I stated before she could finish her sentence.

George and I began our way to town when all of a sudden George screamed, “Hey you, ya you over there. Give me my money! Herman, I know it’s you.” Herman was shorter than average, husky, tan, with a sleeveless shirt, backward hat, and ripped jeans. In the blink of an eye he turned and with the most distressed look on his face upon seeing us, he bolted. Before I could even take in what had happened, I realized George was in front of me sprinting full speed after him.

“Hurry up, John!” George screamed at me while trying to catch his breath. “We have some business that needs attending—come on.”

George and I both were skinny kids who could go through an entire day’s worth of activities and still need more to do. After about one minute of running, we found Herman down an alley bent over with his hands on his knees and gasping for air. When we turned into the alley, I slowed down knowing we had caught him, but George and this kid had some beef I didn’t know about. George running even faster now, lowered his shoulder and screamed, “Nowhere to hide now!” George without hesitation lodged his shoulder into the kid’s side and sent him sliding across the ground. He ran over, grabbed him by the collar and yelled,”where is my money?”

“I spent it already! Please let me go!” Herman exclaimed!

“You wish,” George growled as he threw the kid back to the ground, kicked him in the stomach, then took all the money in his wallet.

“George, what was that all about?” I hesitated to ask.

“That kid is no-good. He deserved every bit of that beating. Once after a baseball game at the park, I gave a kid some money to go buy himself an apple because he told me he hadn’t eaten anything all day. The next he came up to me with a black eye and told me he got beat up and his money stolen by that no good kid; I swore to him I wouldn’t let that action slide under the radar.

That was one of the most memorable days George and I ever spent together. He gave me a whole new understanding about how to treat others. He was not only the boastful baseball player everyone knew him to be, but he looked out for the underdogs and didn’t let anyone pick on them without going unnoticed.

That same summer George was sent away to St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, a school run by monks. George became a bit unruly, often skipping school and causing trouble in the neighborhood. George leaving was the hardest thing I had experienced in my life so far, but we never forgot each other. Every summer it seemed liked we never missed a beat; George and I would hang out all day doing our usual activities.

High school was coming to a close, and my plans and always been to join the navy. While George was at St. Marys he become good friends with one of the monks there, and they passionately practiced baseball. It was the last day I could see George before leaving for the navy.

“You will never believe what happened, John!” George almost yelled with excitement.

“The Brothers have invited Jack Dunn, owner of the Baltimore Orioles, to come watch me play!”

“No way, how could this happen?” I exclaimed with disbelief.

“Brother Mathis set it up; he has been non-stop helping me get better. Everyone there calls me a Babe now because they say I’m like his little baby.”

“Babe Ruth.” I laughed.

“I like it, it fits.”

“Yeah, it took a while to get used to but now hardly anyone calls me George,” he sighed.

“What’s wrong?” I asked.

“John, you’re leaving for the navy! Who knows when the next time is I will get to see you?” he exclaimed while bringing me in for a hug.

“It’s been a good ride,” I said.

He let go, grabbed my shoulders, and with tears in his eyes, looked at me, smiled, then turned to walk away.

“I’ll be sure to write you, wanting to know how this baseball showcase ends up!”

“I’m counting on it!” And with a final wave goodbye, he turned the corner and was gone.

The Navy was not as expected. Going from a small city boy who was primarily taught to focus on eduction, to being transformed into a man who had to endure extremely difficult physical exercise everyday was not an easy job; nonetheless I somehow made it through. After graduating from boot camp, I wrote George asking how baseball went and told him I had successfully made it through.

A few weeks had passed and still no response from George. Assuming baseball had gone well and he was super busy, I didn’t think much of him not responding. Being in the navy I was also hit with a life-changing realization. I was a city boy who had never experienced being on a boat. Many of my fellow sailers constantly gave me a hard time for continually getting sick while out at sea. One day, while not feeling well, I decided to try and write George again. I hoped he would respond to this letter and tell me all about how his life was going, but it was just in vain.

One day while docked at the port, I was taking my shift for mopping off the main deck when everything went black. When I woke up I was in a hospital–a lot of my buddies were all crowed around my bed with the most anxious looks on there face.

“What happened?” I stammered, while all of a sudden feeling a throbbing pain in my lungs.

“You passed out and when I found you on the deck your breathing was soft and short,” one of them stammered.

The doctor walked in shortly after the statement about my condition, “Hey, how are you feeling?” he asked.

“Umm I have a throbbing pain in my lungs and in my head.”

“I’m sorry to tell you that you have been diagnosed with a severe case of pneumonia, and you’re going to have spend a few months back home.”

Hearing this news was devastating. I was just getting comfortable with being in the navy, and things were really starting to look optimistic. Out of nowhere the radio next to me started broadcasting, “This just in rising star Babe Ruth set to have his opening debut.”

“No way!” I screamed. “He has been my best friend for as long as I can remember.”

The following day, I worked my way down to the nearest newspaper boy I could find. The headline for the paper was Babe meets the Public. “That’s perfect!” I thought to myself; I can go surprise him there and see how he has been.

There he was—my lifelong friend George—or as everyone now called him,”Babe.” He was stormed with reporters everywhere all fighting for his attention. It was break time,and the reporters left momentarily. His back was facing me and I saw my opportunity.

“What, you think you’re some sort of hot shot now, George?” I sarcastically said while laughing. He turned around with a frustrated faced that almost immediately turned into a puzzled stare.

“It hasn’t been that long, it’s me, John Williams.” I stated with disbelief.

“Oh yeah, good to see you.” With those few words he patted me on the back, turned, and left for the reporters.

I couldn’t believe what had just occurred. George just gave me the cold shoulder and acted as if he didn’t even remember me. A few of my Navy friends had accompanied me just to make sure nothing went wrong while being in the condition I was in. When they came over to me  I explained everything that had just happened; they were furious at the way George had treated me.

We came up with a plan to humble George. We waited till everyone had left and then followed George home. When the coast was clear, we ran up and threw George down a dark alley.

“Breaks my heart to see you all caught up in your early fame so much so that you don’t even acknowledge your childhood best friend.”

“I’m sorry!” he quickly muttered out.

“You really showed your true colors tonight, George. I don’t want to ever see you treat someone like that again, and I don’t care who they are . . .”

“Let’s get him!” One of my friends yelled.

“No, please.” George begged.

“He knows what he has done, and I trust it won’t happen again.” And with those final words we left him.

George was later traded to the Boston Red Sox where he won his first Major League game as a pitcher on July 11, 1914. “However, due to an loaded roster, Babe was optioned to the Red Sox minor League team, the Providence Grays, where he helped lead them to the International League pennant” (Babe). Babe went on to become one of Major League Baseball’s greatest players. Babe’s popularity grew not only because of his incredible skills, but also because of his people skills. He was America’s greatest icon at the time; a symbol of hope and encouragement in a time of depression. If not for that fateful night, who knows how Babe’s story could have ended.