Babe Ruth's Final
June 13, 1948
Babe Ruth developed throat cancer in 1946. Surgery and
radiation treatments did very little to help he was released from the
hospital February 15, 1947. His wife and doctors kept the horrific
diagnosis from him, but he knew the end was near. "The termites have
got me," he told Connie Mack and others. The surgery damaged his larynx,
transforming the sound of his exuberant voice into a smoky rasp.
On June 13th, 1948, the immortal made his final appearance in Yankee
Stadium It was a time for commemorating the 25th Anniversary of Yankee
Stadium, a time for Babe Ruth's uniform number 3 to be retired.
Friends had to help him into his old uniform which now fit him like
a sack. The Yankee clubhouse was lined with his teammates from the 1923
team who played a two inning exhibition game against veterans from other
years. The Babe could only watch.
It was raining that day and someone put a camel's hair coat over his
shoulders. One by one to booming cheers his old teammates were
introduced. Finally, announcer Mel Allen called him to home plate.
Shuddered out of the topcoat and using a bat as a cane, Ruth walked out
slowly to home plate. The ovation was thunderous.
"Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen," the Babe struggled to
talk into the microphones. "You know how bad my voice sounds. Well, it
feels just as bad. You know this baseball game of ours comes up from the
youth. That means the boys. And after you've been a boy, and grow up to
know how to play ball, then you come to the boys you see representing
themselves today in our national pastime."
When the ceremonies finally ended and the media and old-timers
gathered in the locker room, Joe Dugan poured a beer for the Babe.
"So” Joe asked, "How are you?"
"Joe, I'm gone," the Babe said and then began to cry.
Back in the hospital after that marker day, the man who was
baseball, signed autographs, watched baseball on television, listened to
his wife read him some of the hundreds of letters sent to him every day.
Visitors came and went. The Babe tried to look upbeat.
At 8:01 P.M., on August 16, 1948, the Babe passed away. He
was fifty-three years old. He lay in state in "the House That Ruth
Built" for 2 days as more than 200,000 paid last respects. Grieving
fathers held up their sons and daughters for one final look.
Three days later the funeral was held at St. Patrick's Cathedral. There
were tens of thousands in the streets outside and tens of thousands more
lined the funeral cortege route. At the funeral, Ruth's old teammates
were pallbearer. Claire Ruth, Babe's widow, lived on at their apartment
at 100 Riverside Drive for another 28 years until her death.
# # #
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About the Author:
Harvey Frommer is in his 38th year of writing books.
A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports
books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and
"Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE
STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL
AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to
acclaim in 2011. The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was
Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One.
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