Growing up with the Great Bambino

We all know who Babe Ruth is but in the age of steroids in baseball and paychecks that’d make the Lehman Brothers blush the Colossus of Clout is often painted as a hot dog-scarfing alcoholic who simply called his shot. Earlier this year Jane Leavy wrote an article for Grantland about his daughter Julia Ruth Stevens, who saw him not as a skirt chaser but as a man who enforced her curfew and cooked BBQ. Now in her 80s, Ruth adopted Ms. Stevens when she was 12 years old and he was at the height of his career. Despite spending her youth with a different father, Stevens said of Ruth, “It seems like he’d always been there.”

He was the Babe, the Bam, the Big Bam, and the Great (and Bulby) Bambino (or Slambino); the Barnstorming Babe, the Bazoo of Bang, the Behemoth of Biff and Bust; Blunderbuss, and the Modern Beowulf. He was the Caliph and Colossus of Clout and Club, the Circuit Smasher and Goliath of Grand Slam, Homeric Herman and Herman the Great. He was the High Priest of Swat, and before that the Infant of Swategy. Also: the Kid of Crash, King of Clout/Diamonds/Swing, and, until Roger Maris, Hank Aaron, and the steroid marauders came along, the Home Run King. He was the Maharajah/Mauler of Mash, the Mauling Menace, Mauling Monarch, Mauling Mastodon, as well as the Mastodonic Mauler, Bulky Monarch, and Monarch of Swatdom; the Prince of Pounders, Rajah of Rap, Sachem of Slug, and Sultan of Swat; Terrible Titan, Whazir of Wham, Wali of Wallop, Wizard of Whack. And, not to be outdone, Damon Runyon added: “Diamond-Studded Ball-Buster.”

The priests at St. Mary’s Industrial School, the Xaverian reform school on the outskirts of Baltimore to which he was consigned at age 7, called him George. The parents who didn’t visit called him Little George. The boys incarcerated along with him called him Nigger Lips. The Red Sox called him the Big Baboon and sometimes Tarzan, a name he liked until he found out what it meant. The Yankees called him Jidge.

Julia Ruth Stevens, his sole surviving daughter, calls him Daddy.

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