A few years ago, Babe Ruth’s daughter, Julia Ruth Stevens, described on the phone what it was like when The Big Man was about to play ball in the Bronx. The Babe would occasionally gaze at the palisades across the Hudson — man, did he like that view — before leaving his Riverside Drive apartment, heading to the barbershop to shave, and arriving at the old stadium in time for batting practice.
Sometimes Julia would sit in the upper mezzanine to get a view of her father’s desk which was not available in those expensive armchairs. “When dad got to the plate,” she told me, “everyone was out of breath. You knew something big was going to happen.
“It was thrilling, absolutely thrilling. I remember how dad would hit it high and the crowd would get up and try to follow the ball, and when it landed deep in the stands they let out a huge roar.
Nearly a century later, Aaron Judge has the same impact on Yankees fans. He enters Tuesday night’s game against Pittsburgh one stroke away from tying Ruth’s 60 home run season in 1927, and two strokes away from tying Roger Maris’ franchise and American League record 61 home run season. in 1961.
But as a colossal figure at home plate, the Yankees’ No. 99 is best compared to their iconic No. 3.
“I would say Judge’s towering shots are reminiscent of Babe’s,” said Ruth’s 70-year-old grandson, Tom Stevens, son of Julia Ruth Stevens, who died in 2019 at the age of 102. “That’s a nice way to put it.”
Tom Stevens, a retired civil engineer who grew up in New Hampshire and who, like his mother, became a fan of Babe’s two employers – the Yankees and the Red Sox – followed the continuation of Judge’s story , not to mention his pursuit of a new contract. “He’s a free agent, so he picked a good year,” Stevens told the Post. His grandfather never made more than $80,000 a season, and now Judge is in line for a long-term contract that will likely earn him over $300 million.
Everything is bigger these days, including the size of the home run heroes. Judge is 6-foot-7, 282 pounds, a good five inches taller and 67 pounds heavier than Ruth. But in his time, Ruth has become so much larger than life as the founding father of the American superstar.
All about Aaron Judge and his pursuit of the home run record:
Wielding this heavy walnut wood, the Babe effectively invented the home run and the idea that a ballplayer could be among the three or four most recognizable people on the planet.
“He was always swinging for the fences,” his daughter Julia had said. “Dad always said, ‘The crowd didn’t come to see me hit singles. I gotta hit some home runs. … The big city was absolutely made for him because he had the biggest personality. New York was the dad’s playground.
Julia’s mother, Claire, was Ruth’s second wife; the baby adopted the girl after marrying Claire in 1929. Ruth took her bowling, took her to the golf course, took her to Japan, took her everywhere. Julia was really Babe’s daughter even before he literally gave her his blood in a transfusion when she was hospitalized in her youth. “I had daddy’s blood in me,” she told her son Tom and others. “I was his daughter.”
Tom was born four years after Ruth died in 1948. Julia kept telling her son stories about the baby that weren’t common knowledge, like the one on the rug she kept in their New Hampshire home.
“She said the rug was the first thing Babe’s feet touched when he got out of bed in the morning,” Stevens recalled. “She said he was on that mat while she held his ankles and did sit-ups at night before he went to bed. She was talking about family stuff, how he carved the Thanksgiving turkey and decorated the Christmas tree.
The Bambino has made a habit of not taking the game home with him, winning or losing. “I remember a few weeks before my mom passed away, she said, ‘Dad was such a great guy,'” Tom Stevens said. “She can’t say it enough. She was just gaga about him. Everyone was. Everyone in this sphere got caught up in the whirlwind of Babe Ruth.
In 2008, the Yankees invited Julia to throw the final ceremonial pitch in The House That Ruth Built. The following spring, as fly balls streaked across the right-field jet stream and out of the new stadium at an absurd rate, I asked Julia how many home runs her father would have hit in The House That Ruthless Businessmen Built.
“Oh my God,” she replied. “Dad may have hit 100 in one season.”
Ruth’s descendants are proud and protective of her heritage. They believe that anything that draws attention to Ruth and their website (baberuthcentral.com) – even discussions of sluggers using steroids – only serves to educate young fans about the magnitude of the Babe.
By repeatedly crushing baseballs without the aid of chemical enhancements, Aaron Judge focused new attention on Ruth. “All I hear about him is that he’s a nice young man, and you want someone like that to be successful,” Tom Stevens said.
“He has a good swing. …You’re looking for him to be a little clumsy on the pitch because he’s too tall, but he’s an acrobat and very athletic. They always talked about the sound when Babe hit the ball, that it was different from when anyone else hit, and they said the same thing about Judge. But Babe’s lifetime shot percentage (.690), no one will ever touch it.
The judge won’t catch Ruth in many categories, but he will indeed pass him in single-season homers. The day after Babe’s death, The New York Times wrote that the one and only “had an incredible talent for making the show at the most dramatic moment”.
The same can be written of a modern-day Yankee titan, Aaron Judge. He is the Babe Ruth of his time.