BRONX, NY – As baseball approaches the April 15 anniversary of Jackie Robinson’s breaking the color barrier, a new book, BABE RUTH - A Superstar’s Legacy by Jerry Amernic, makes the case that The Bambino never got the coveted opportunity to become a big-league manager for fear that he might push for integration.
Babe Ruth’s grandson, Tom Stevens, wrote the Foreword to the book and calls it “the first real effort to explain his enduring popularity.” The recently published book explores Ruth’s legacy on many fronts, both in and beyond baseball. It involves sports, culture, business, the arts, and humanity.
“Ruth was popular in the black community, and he led barnstorming tours in which he and his team played against Negro League players in the 1920s,” Amernic said in a phone interview.
The author said that during his research, Stevens told him why his grandfather may not have become a manager.
“Tom said that the Babe would have advocated hiring black ballplayers. Ruth did play against black teams as early as 1918 and throughout his career he played 800 games on the barnstorming circuit, many against black ballplayers, including the legendary Satchel Paige,” Amernic said.
Baseball historian Bill Jenkinson, author of The Year Babe Ruth Hit 104 Home Runs, agrees.
“BABE RUTH - A Superstar’s Legacy sheds new light on Ruth as a man who was ahead of his time and not only on the baseball field, but also where he stood on racial segregation,” Jenkinson said. “There are many books about Babe Ruth, but this is the first one that really gets into the race issue.”
After the 1921 season in which Ruth hit a record-shattering 54 home runs for the Yankees, the slugger put together the Babe Ruth All Stars, which played against Negro League teams, including the famed Kansas City Monarchs. This did not sit well with the Commissioner of Baseball, Judge Kenesaw Mountain Landis, who barred white ballplayers from participating in interracial games. The Major Leagues were white during his entire tenure and opened to integration only after Landis died in 1944.
According to Amernic, what makes Babe Ruth’s legacy so remarkable is that it continues to grow even seven decades after his death in 1948.
“Ruth was once the most famous person in America, and here we are in 2018 and his star is still on the rise,” Amernic says. “He remains a unique character who stands the test of time. He is a cultural and historical phenomenon. In the book I explain how and why it happened.”
In the billion-dollar industry of sports collecting and memorabilia, No. 3 is easily the No. 1 player. Witness the 2012 sale at auction of one of his New York Yankees jerseys that fetched an astounding price of $4.4 million (a Guinness World Record for an item of sports memorabilia). Amernic interviewed the agent who bought the jersey for his client and devotes a full chapter to that auction. The book also gets into the licensing and commercial endorsement appeal of Ruth’s name.
Another big part of the slugger’s legacy, the Babe Ruth League baseball organization, today has over one million players and two million volunteers across the United States. The book also has a chapter on that.