Babe Ruth’s Compassion

In a now-famous story, Yankees star Babe Ruth made a trek to the country to comfort a sick child.

Babe Ruth, in raincoat, posing with an elderly man.
The World of Babe Ruth February 13, 1954 Earl Mayan

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This article and other features about baseball can be found in the Post’s Special Collector’s Edition, Baseball: The Glory Years. This edition can be ordered here.   

In Vicksburg one rainy morning about 8 o’clock an aged, bewhiskered man with wet clothing and muddy feet came into the lobby of the hotel.

At the desk he asked for Babe Ruth. He was given the number of Ruth’s room on the second door at the head of the steps. That hotel had not yet surrendered to the idea of visitors’ having to be announced. A few minutes later Ruth, in bed, heard a rap at his door. He grunted and got up. In night clothes and with hair tousled, the Babe went to the door.

“I’m sorry to disturb you like this, Mr. Ruth,” the old gentleman apologized, “but I have come to ask of you a great favor.”

“What is it, old-timer?” asked Ruth, somewhat puzzled, but immediately sympathetic. “Sit down.”

“Mr. Ruth,” the stranger explained, “I want to get you to sign this baseball. It’s for a little boy out in the country — very sick. He may not get well. Ever since last fall, when we heard that the Yankees were coming here to play a game, the little fellow has looked forward to seeing you. Now that he knows that he can’t get out of bed, his mother thinks the disappointment has made him worse. She is very much distressed. I figured out that it would help some if I could get you to sign this ball. That would at least comfort him for a while.”

“Where is the little fellow?” asked Ruth.

“He lives out in the country about 12 miles. It was quite a trip for me, too, with all this rain and bad roads.”

“Sure, I’ll sign two or three balls for him,” declared Ruth. “Not only that, but I’ll take them to him. Let’s go!”

As the astonished old gentleman looked on, Ruth called for a bellboy, ordered a big touring car, and began to get dressed. Two hours later he arrived at the little boy’s home. The mother, instantly recognizing Ruth, could hardly believe her eyes. Without any preliminary conversation, she led the Babe immediately to the little fellow’s bedroom.

At the expression on the little boy’s face, as he raised up in bed, the mother burst into tears.

“He’s been delirious,” she said, “and he thinks he’s dreaming.”

“No, mamma,” spoke the boy. “It’s Babe Ruth himself, isn’t it?”

Ruth went over and sat on the side of the bed. Taking three baseballs from his pocket, he began signing them, all the while talking to the little fellow, as a pal, about the game. He asked about the boy’s own ball club and made several suggestions as to how they should play next summer. It was the happiest moment of that boy’s life.

“He’ll get well, all right,” Ruth said to the mother, in the presence of the little fellow, “and this summer he’ll be out there hitting that baseball as hard as any of them.”

Nobody knew of this incident — that is, nobody in our party — until we were aboard the train en route to Jackson that night. The writer of this happened to pick up a local afternoon paper, and on the front page found the story as just related, evidently told to the editor by the old gentleman.

“Certainly it’s true,” said Ruth, when asked about it. “That’s as little as anybody could do, isn’t it?”

All of us took the clipping and telegraphed it word for word to the papers we represented. Ruth felt a little hurt, and so did we, two or three weeks later, when a cynical paragraph in a distant newspaper referred to this incident as another bit of Ruth publicity.

—“And Along Came Ruth” (4-part series) by Bozeman Bulger, November–December 1931

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