WHEN BABE RUTH LOST THE SPOTLIGHT


During spring training in New Orleans prior to the 1923 season, Babe Ruth returned to his hotel to find the lobby jammed with people, women seemingly outnumbering the men. It was his kind of crowd and it was buzzing. Babe naturally assumed they had gathered to congratulate him on a home run he had smacked over the right field fence earlier that day. As he began to walk through the packed lobby, he kept hearing people say, “Where is he?” “Have you seen him yet?” “Is that him?” Babe responded by thrusting out his chest and swaggered through the assembled host. When a man pointed to him and asked his wife, “Do you think that’s him?” Babe’s bubble burst when she responded, “No, no! Valentino isn’t half that big. Nobody could make love with a face like that!”

Just then Rudolph Valentino, the famed Sheik of silent films, burst into the lobby and women pushed forward to get closer to their movie idol. The mighty Bambino was left in the dust, standing alone, deflated, confused and wondering what had just happened. Unknown to the Babe, who did not read, New Orleans papers had announced that Valentino would be making an appearance. Ruth was probably the only person in the city who had not heard the news. Next morning at breakfast, Babe was still steamed and sat glaring at Valentino as the Italian star daintily picked at his meal. Valentino ignored the Babe. When Ruth left the restaurant with a friend, he pointed to Valentino and whispered, “That’s him. That’s the guy, that Valentine—that dancing Wop.” There was more said out of earshot of the misidentified “Valentine,” Babe going into detail about his thoughts on dancers in general, Lotharios, and what he referred to as “manly beauty.” While reporting on the event, Babe’s companion admitted that the home run hitter’s language “would not look well in this family newspaper.” It was one of the few times in his life that Babe Ruth had been upstaged by anyone.


© 2020 by Alan D. Gaff