The King of Swings
Babe Ruth revolutionized baseball while indulging a passion for wine, women and cigars.
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"Ruth was Rabelais," says Roger Kahn, smiling. "Somebody who wanted to drink up all the ale in New York and not let a cocktail waitress pass by untouched. He was a huge, excessive, barely believable fellow. That's the first thing. And then there were the home runs. Not just the numbers of them, but the distance. When he was with the Red Sox he hit one in spring training in an exhibition game at the Tampa fairgrounds. He hit it out of the racetrack, into a farmer's field, and it stopped in a furrow. Several New York writers got a surveyor's glass and said it had traveled 630 feet. While that distance taxes credulity, writer Bill McGeehan said he didn't know how far it traveled, but when it came down it was covered in ice."
"There were so many numbers," says Barry Halper, drawing on a Churchill Natural. Halper owns one of the largest baseball memorabilia collections in the world, and it's full of Babe Ruth artifacts. "The most incredible thing is that he won a batting title, homer titles and an earned run average title!"
There is not now, never was and never will be another ballplayer like Babe Ruth.
"I never heard anyone say he was a son of a bitch or anything bad about him," says Ralph Kiner. "And Hank Greenberg [Kiner's teammate with the Pittsburgh Pirates] used to say that Ruth was head and shoulders above anyone else. He was, in my opinion, the greatest ballplayer that ever lived."
And anyone in doubt can look it up.
Kenneth Shouler, a freelance writer based in White Plains, New York, is a frequent contributor to Cigar Aficionado.
Special thanks to Tim Wiles, Tom Craig and Patrick Donnelly at the National Baseball Hall of Fame for research assistance.