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Babe Ruth's Final Appearance:
June 13, 1948


Babe Ruth developed throat cancer in 1946. Surgery and radiation treatments did very little to help he was released from the hospital February 15, 1947. His wife and doctors kept the horrific diagnosis from him, but he knew the end was near.  "The termites have got me," he told Connie Mack and others. The surgery damaged his larynx, transforming the sound of his exuberant voice into a smoky rasp.


On June 13th, 1948, the immortal made his final appearance in Yankee Stadium It was a time for commemorating the 25th Anniversary of Yankee Stadium, a time for Babe Ruth's uniform number 3 to be retired. 
 

Friends had to help him into his old uniform which now fit him like a sack. The Yankee clubhouse was lined with his teammates from the 1923 team who played a two inning exhibition game against veterans from other years. The Babe could only watch. 
 

It was raining that day and someone put a camel's hair coat over his shoulders. One by one to booming cheers his old teammates were introduced. Finally, announcer Mel Allen called him to home plate. Shuddered out of the topcoat and using a bat as a cane, Ruth walked out slowly to home plate. The ovation was thunderous.
 

"Thank you very much ladies and gentlemen," the Babe struggled to talk into the microphones. "You know how bad my voice sounds. Well, it feels just as bad. You know this baseball game of ours comes up from the youth. That means the boys. And after you've been a boy, and grow up to know how to play ball, then you come to the boys you see representing themselves today in our national pastime."
 

When the ceremonies finally ended and the media and old-timers gathered in the locker room, Joe Dugan poured a beer for the Babe.
 

"So” Joe asked, "How are you?"
 

"Joe, I'm gone," the Babe said and then began to cry.
 

Back in the hospital after that marker day, the man who was baseball, signed autographs, watched baseball on television, listened to his wife read him some of the hundreds of letters sent to him every day. Visitors came and went.   The Babe tried to look upbeat. 
 

At 8:01 P.M., on August 16, 1948, the Babe passed away.  He was fifty-three years old. He lay in state in "the House That Ruth Built" for 2 days as more than 200,000 paid last respects.   Grieving fathers held up their sons and daughters for one final look.
Three days later the funeral was held at St. Patrick's Cathedral. There were tens of thousands in the streets outside and tens of thousands more lined the funeral cortege route. At the funeral, Ruth's old teammates were pallbearer. Claire Ruth, Babe's widow, lived on at their apartment at 100 Riverside Drive for another 28 years until her death.

 

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You can reach Harvey Frommer at:   

Email:  harvey.frommer@Dartmouth.EDU 

About the Author:

Harvey Frommer is in his  38th year of writing books. A noted oral historian and sports journalist, the author of 42 sports books including the classics: "New York City Baseball,1947-1957" and "Shoeless Joe and Ragtime Baseball," his acclaimed REMEMBERING YANKEE STADIUM was published in 2008 and his REMEMBERING FENWAY PARK: AN ORAL AND NARRATIVE HISTORY OF THE HOME OF RED SOX NATION was published to acclaim in 2011.  The prolific Frommer is at work on When It Was Just a Game, An Oral History on Super Bowel One. 

His work has appeared in the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, New York Daily News, Newsday, USA Today, Men's Heath, The Sporting News, among other publications.

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Harvey Frommer along with his wife, Myrna Katz  Frommer are the authors of five critically acclaimed oral/cultural histories, professors at Dartmouth  College, and travel writers who specialize in cultural history, food, wine, and Jewish history and heritage in the United States, Europe, and the Caribbean. 

This Article is Copyright © 1995 - 2014 by Harvey Frommer.  All rights reserved worldwide.

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