It’s nice that there is a Hall of Fame in this country that recognizes the good in sports.

With all of the modern sports world’s idiotic athletes and classless characters now permeating the professional leagues and college campuses, there certainly is a spot for the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame.

But a spot for Babe Ruth in a Hall of Fame that includes the word “Humanitarian?”

Yikes – the sports world really has been turned upside down by all the chaos and would-be criminals being paid obscene salaries.

Was surfing the Internet on a late Thursday morning and came across an item stating that Babe Ruth will be inducted into the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame in June.

Seriously. You couldn’t make up something like this. I’m sure The Bambino, dead since 1948, will be thrilled to receive correspondence about this latest honor.

In case you’ve never heard of the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame, it is in Boise, Idaho. I’ve had ties to the Boise area since the mid-1990s when one of my brothers moved to that fabulous city and I’ve never met a single person in Boise who has been to the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame.

Nobody seems to know where it’s located either.

Perhaps it’s hidden somewhere in the foothills of Boise or buried in the amazing green patch of lawn on the famed Simplot Mansion grounds. Perhaps it is stashed at the Old Penitentiary (I have no idea where that’s located either but Boise folks are fond of the place) or takes up 20 feet of space in the Boise Art Museum in Julia Davis Park.

Wherever this secret Hall of Fame is located, what genius or geniuses came up with inducting Babe Ruth?

The Babe is one of the great characters in this country’s sports history and a prestigious home-run hitter — I’m confident there was no steroid use in baseball when Ruth slammed 714 career homers – but his off-the-field exploits have been well-chronicled.

His drinking, gambling and womanizing are something of legendary stature and it tells you how much the media has changed that the baseball writers who traveled with Ruth and the New York Yankees during the 1920s and 1930s declined to publicize any of the sordid details.

Imagine how jealous today’s athletes are about that? They can’t go out in public these days without a cell-phone camera being pointed at them or someone they encounter e-mailing TMZ to negotiate a price for details of debauchery with photos that back it all up.

Ask Charles Barkley about being arrested for DUI and a Phoenix-area Web site posting the bill of all the alcohol he and his party purchased within hours of his arrest becoming known. (I bet The Babe could have given Charles a run in the most bottles of alcohol consumed in one night competition.)

In today’s era, Ruth wouldn’t be on the way to being a folk hero. He would be viewed as just another superstar feeling entitled to do whatever he wanted. There would be incriminating photos of drunken behavior and who knows what other things would emerge.

Now this isn’t to say Ruth didn’t perform good, humanitarian deeds during his life. He did. But so do thousands of other professional athletes, include many of the ones in the news today for stupid behavior – yeah, even Ben Roethlisberger of the Pittsburgh Steelers has a foundation in which he donates time and money to help people.

I have nothing against Babe Ruth. I wish he were still second on the all-time home runs list behind Hank Aaron. I absolutely loved reading books about him when I was a kid and love the fact he overcame being placed in an orphanage as a child to become one of the most beloved sports figures ever.

But induction into a Hall of Fame with the word “Humanitarian” attached? Sounds more like a publicity stunt to call attention to a hall of fame few know exist.

When I think of sports humanitarians, I think of late baseball player Roberto Clemente, late tennis player Arthur Ashe and still-alive former basketball player David Robinson. Of current athletes, football players Drew Brees (his help in reviving New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina is already legendary) and LaDainian Tomlinson rank high on the list.

One athlete I don’t think of – and never will – is Babe Ruth.

This is one big swing and a miss by the World Sports Humanitarian Hall of Fame – unless it’s all a big publicity stunt to clue people in that a Hall of Fame honoring the good in sports actually exists.

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Comments
  1. Babe Fan says:

    Although you do make an effort to try and be objective with your blog entry, I believe you’re incorrect in your position, which is largely due to a lack of accurate information. I don’t blame you; most people lack sufficient information to judge Babe Ruth, the person. There is a general consensus of opinion that Babe was a great ballplayer, many would argue the greatest still. But there is also the popular perception that he was an overweight womanizer who drank too much. This impression can largely be attributed to more recent media that only know of Ruth through second and third-hand sources. Today’s media embraces any salacious nugget that they can get their hands on and blast to the masses, regardless of how badly they spin it. I must agree however, today’s athletes are scrutinized under a much larger, magnifying glass. Even so, one could infer from your blog that overindulgence in food, alcohol and women precludes or prevents a person from being a humanitarian.

    Yes, Babe Ruth did have his flaws, as any human being does; however, he wasn’t quite the boorish, drunkard and womanizer that has been portrayed in more recent media. The movie “The Babe” is a great example of taking creative liberties to make a more interesting story, even if that portrayal is inaccurate or defamatory. Unfortunately, Ruth wasn’t around to defend himself (or sue for libel); however, I think a lot of misconceptions about the Babe can be traced to more recent media such as this trashy film.

    Babe Ruth, grew up for most of his childhood and young, adult life in an industrial home. As a result, he did not have the conventional upbringing that most of us can take for granted. His behavior was largely restrained, he was separated from his family and general society and this left him on many occasions craving both food and affection. Ruth went from the confinement of St. Mary’s to the big leagues and ultimate stardom within a matter of a couple years. At the age of 19, Ruth left what was a very sheltered existence at St Mary’s. He had never eaten a steak, ridden a bicycle or even been in an elevator. Could you imagine how someone would act in that situation without much supervision and guidance? I don’t argue that Ruth did have a period of overdoing it – alcohol, women and food and doing generally foolish things; however, this wasn’t who Ruth was for his entire life. Ultimately, he did settle down and straighten himself out (with the help of his second wife Claire). Yes, Ruth, when he was truly experiencing the world for the first time, as well as his new-found celebrity, did go through a more self-absorbed and self destructive mode; however, he never stopped genuinely caring and giving to others, which is a lot more than you can say for most sports celebrities today.

    There are so many first-hand accounts of fans that couldn’t speak more highly of Ruth and how kind and friendly he was. The stories of hours spent outside stadiums signing baseballs and visiting orphanages and hospitals to cheer up children are true. He used his celebrity for a lot of good causes (such as visiting orphanages and hospitals and helping to fundraise for war bonds for World War II), even when the concept of celebrity-endorsed foundations was not fully realized or understood. Also bear in mind that for every photo op visiting sick kids in hospitals, there were 50 other visits in backwater towns that nobody every heard about. And he wanted it that way. The Babe was very involved with the fans, particularly children, for one reason alone – he truly cared about others. Were you aware that on more than one occasion, he paid for the surgeries of children born to disadvantaged parents he didn’t even know, simply because they needed help?

    Did you also know that he willed all of his personal memorabilia to the Hall of Fame, one of the few inductees to do so. He simply felt that it was a way to give back to the fans.

    If having a formal organization or movement tied your name is a requirement for sports humanitarian candidate, it should be noted that Ruth did will 10% of his estate to a foundation for the benefit of children. Unfortunately, due to poor management, the foundation never had a chance to succeed, which is a great tragedy.

    Most importantly, he treated others with kindness and respect, regardless of social status or race, which says a lot given the era in which he lived. In fact, there are many times he received threats for simply playing exhibition ballgames against Negro Leaguers. Hall of Famers Judy Johnson and the late Buck O’Neill remembered him fondly. For the Babe, it wasn’t about color, it was all about playing and promoting the game of Baseball. He also suffered the evil stares of his own team members when he was the first person to bring an African American, Bill “Mr. Bojangles” Robinson, into the Yankee clubhouse as his personal guest. No one but Babe Ruth could have pulled this off. Joe Louis himself, invited the Babe to his training camp in the Catskills to personally thank him for his efforts on behalf of people of color.

    It has also been cited that Ruth played a key role in 1942 in helping to bring the plight of holocaust victims to greater public awareness, which ultimately encouraged the US to get involved in World War II.

    The truth is, Ruth should receive more recognition for the many acts of kindness he performed off the field. He was a source of inspiration and excitement for a lot of people during some very challenging years for America. He has been credited with singlehandedly rescuing baseball when its future was in doubt due to the Black Sox scandal of 1919. He brought baseball to a new level of interest on a national scale. This more accurate, positive perception can be better understood through the stories of the people that actually had the opportunity to meet him. Many of these stories are chronicled in the 1998 HBO documentary “The Babe, There Will Never Be Another”, a far more accurate portrayal than that given by John Goodman in “The Babe”. You state in your blog that “the Babe is one athlete you will never think of as a humanitarian and never will. That’s a pretty unfair statement, especially given that it’s clear that you don’t know much about Babe Ruth, the person. But again, unfortunately, you’re far from the only one. My suggestion would be that you reserve judgment until after following up on Ruth’s induction this weekend. People will be there speaking on his behalf, who have studied and researched Ruth’s life in detail for decades. Hear what they have to say to ensure that you have the full facts.

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