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Babe Ruth's Final Years

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George Herman "Babe" Ruth was, in pretty much everyone's opinion, the most popular and beloved baseball player of all time.


Ruth played 22 years in the major leagues, hitting 714 home runs, winning seven World Series, and becoming baseball's greatest legend. But by 1936, the Babe was retired at age 41. He was an inhabitant of that strange twilight, the twilight for men who had accomplished all they can early in life.


The Babe's final years, although dotted with happy moments, were mainly a lonely time.

Waiting for the call that never came

Ruth wanted desperately to become a manager; unfortunately, no one was interested. He was offered a minor league job managing a Yankee farm team in Newark, but he turned it down: "I'm a big leaguer!" According to his wife, Claire, the Babe never stopped waiting and watching and hoping for the phone to ring with a call for that managing offer he wanted so badly.

Filling the time

A wealthy man with no financial worries, Ruth spent the final 13 years of his life basically filling in the hours, with no goal or purpose to speak of. And so he fished. His daughter Dorothy (at left, as a child) fondly remembers her dad going off for 3 or 4 days on a "fishing expedition," but catching nothing. Stopping at some market on the way home, he bought a batch of fish; upon arriving home, he slapped the fish on their kitchen counter as if he were an ace fisherman.


Ruth enjoyed hunting as well, and his daughter remembers him waking her up early in the morning and cooking her a special egg-and-toast creation before he left with his hunting rifle.


He bowled too, and was a good, if not great, bowler, with a 177 average. Ruth would check into a local bowling alley at 1 p.m. and leave promptly at 5 p.m. He bowled alone, preferring not to keep score, but instead liked adding up the "total pins" he had knocked down. ("I knocked down 7,000 pins in five weeks.")

Ruth was also an avid golfer -- "I played 365 rounds of golf last year. Thank God for whoever invented golf. I'd be dead without it."


At left, Babe Ruth with former NY Gov. Al Smith at the Biltmore Hotel and Country Club in Coral Gables, FL (1930). Photo from the Florida Memory Project at the State Archives of Florida.


He enjoyed listening to the radio, especially tuning into his beloved The Lone Ranger. Ruth, along with millions of other Americans, listened to Orson Welles' legendary War of the Worlds broadcast and bought into it. "Hide under the bed!" he yelled to his wife and daughters as he nervously looked out the curtains of their Riverside Drive apartment.


He liked his booze, drinking his beloved highballs among other alcoholic treats. He still followed baseball, of course, and had a lifetime free pass to ballgames.

Appreciating the ladies

A notorious ladies' man, Babe Ruth never got women out of his mind.

After spending a day golfing with his pal Buzzie Bavasi at the all-male St. Andrews Golf Club, Ruth told him, "Buzzie, thanks for a wonderful day, you have a great golf club here, but it's not for me. No broads."

The Ruths traveled often to foreign countries; after visiting the island of Bali, Ruth remarked that he didn't like the Balinese women: "They're too dark and their breasts are too big."

Coping with sad times

Anyone, even in the most secure of circumstances, will be faced with some sadness, and Babe Ruth was no exception.

Claire's brother Eugene, who had been gassed in World War I and had never been healthy since, jumped from the Ruths' 15th story window to his death after a battle with severe depression. Ruth rushed home from his vacation in Florida to take care of all the funeral arrangements.

In 1938, Ruth's daughter Julia was in medical trouble with strep throat. Her father rushed to the hospital and donated blood to help.


The same year, Ruth was hired for his last official baseball job, as a coach for the Brooklyn Dodgers. The Babe was mostly looked on as a "gate attraction" and a curiosity. He still harbored a secret hope to be hired as the manager of the team, but when the season ended the job went to Leo Durocher (whom Ruth hated) instead. Ruth left the Dodgers bitterly disappointed.


At left, Babe Ruth in uniform for the Dodgers.


Probably bored and frustrated, Ruth swallowed his pride and asked Yankee management about the long ago offer to manage the minor league Newark club. But no, it was too late, and the offer was no longer available.

Winding down

Soon after the end of the war, Ruth began getting severe headaches and pains in his neck, and went to the hospital for observation. According to daughter Dorothy, the headaches were so severe "he threatened to kill himself."

Ruth was diagnosed with throat cancer, although he was not told of the diagnosis. Sadly, he was never to be out of pain for the final 21 months of his life.

He dictated a "sugar-coated" version of his life to author Bob Considine, and his official memoir The Babe Ruth Story was published. (Of course, it omits the countless hookers and numerous affairs of the previous 25 years.) At an autograph-signing reception for the book, Ernest Hemingway stood in line to meet the Babe and get his signature.

Babe Ruth made his final appearance at Yankee Stadium on June 26, 1948.

His old number 3 uniform hung limply on his body, now ravaged by cancer. Ruth croaked out a hoarse, raspy speech of gratitude to the packed house and shuffled off. The crowd of 58,339 gave him a standing ovation.

Bob Feller, the Cleveland pitcher that day, remembers letting Ruth use his bat to lean on like a cane.

Ruth spent his last days in the hospital. He received the new treatment, chemotherapy, and various other experimental treatments. Gifts and mail flooded in from all quarters. Toward the end, Ruth pinned a medal he received in the mail on his pajamas.

When famed manager Connie Mack came to visit, Ruth told him, "The termites have got me, Mr. Mack."

One nebulous, but interesting, hospital visitor was a "tall, striking redhead" named Loretta. She claimed she had been Ruth's girlfriend for the previous 10 years. Knowing the Babe, she was probably telling the truth.

On August 16, 1948, Ruth said his prayers and passed away quietly in his sleep.


The Ruth family grave in Gate of Heaven Cemetery (Hawthorne, NY). Photo by Wikimedia user Anthony 22.

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8 Gonzo Facts About Hunter S. Thompson
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Hunter S. Thompson in Gonzo: The Life and Work of Hunter S. Thompson (2008)
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Like any real-life legend, there are many myths surrounding the life and work of Hunter S. Thompson. But in Thompson’s case, most of those stories—particularly the more outlandish ones—are absolutely true. The founder of the “Gonzo journalism” movement is one of the most fascinating figures of the 20th century. In celebration of what would have been his 80th birthday, here are some things you might not have known about the eccentric writer.

1. HE WAS NAMED AFTER A FAMOUS SCOTTISH SURGEON.

Hunter S. Thompson was reportedly named after one of his mother’s ancestors, a Scottish surgeon named Nigel John Hunter. But Hunter wasn't just your run-of-the-mill surgeon. In a 2004 interview with the Independent, Thompson brought along a copy of The Reluctant Surgeon, a Biography of Nigel John Hunter, a biography of his namesake, which read: "A gruff Scotsman, Hunter has been described as the most important naturalist between Aristotle and Darwin, the Shakespeare of medicine and the greatest man the British ever produced. He was the first to trace the lymphatic system. He performed the first human artificial insemination. He was the greatest collector of anatomical specimens in history. He prescribed the orthopaedic shoe that allowed Lord Byron to walk."

When pressed about what that description had to do with him, Thompson responded: "Well, I guess that might be the secret of my survival. Good genes."

2. HE MISSED HIS HIGH SCHOOL GRADUATION … BECAUSE HE WAS IN JAIL.

Just a few weeks before he was set to graduate from high school, at the age of 17, Thompson was charged as an accessory to robbery and sentenced to 60 days in jail. 

“One night Ralston Steenrod, who was in the Athenaeum with Hunter, was driving, and Hunter and another guy he knew were in the car,” Thompson’s childhood friend Neville Blakemore recalled of the incident. “As they were driv­ing through Cherokee Park, the other guy said, ‘Stop. I want to bum a ciga­rette from that car.’ People used to go park and neck at this spot. And the guy got out and apparently went back and mugged them. The guy who was mugged got their license number and traced the car, and within a very short time they were all three arrested.

“Just before this Hunter had been blamed for a nighttime gas-station rob­bery,” Blakemore added, “and before that he and some friends got arrested for buying booze under­age at Abe's Liquor Store on Frankfort Avenue by the tracks. So Hunter had a record, and he was already on probation. He was given an ultimatum: jail or the military. And Hunter took the Air Force. He didn't graduate with his class.”

3. IT WAS A FELLOW JOURNALIST WHO COINED THE TERM “GONZO.”

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While covering the 1968 New Hampshire primary, Thompson met fellow writer and editor Bill Carodoso, editor of The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine, which is where Thompson first heard him use the word “Gonzo.” “It meant sort of ‘crazy’ or ‘off-the-wall,’” Thompson said in Anita Thompson’s Ancient Gonzo Wisdom: Interviews with Hunter S. Thompson. Two years later, in June 1970, Thompson wrote an article for Scanlan’s Monthly entitled “The Kentucky Derby Is Decadent and Depraved,” which became a game-changing moment in journalism because of its offbeat, slightly manic style that was written with first-person subjectivity.

Among the many fellow journalists who praised Thompson for the piece was Cardoso, who sent a letter to Thompson that “said something like, ‘Forget all the sh*t you’ve been writing, this is it; this is pure Gonzo.’ Gonzo. Yeah, of course. That’s what I was doing all the time. Of course, I might be crazy.” Thompson ran with the word, and would use it himself for the first time a year later, in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.

4. HE TYPED OUT FAMOUS NOVELS TO LEARN THE ART OF WRITING.

In order to get the “feel” of being a writer, Thompson used to retype his favorite novels in full. “[H]is true model and hero was F. Scott Fitzgerald,” Louis Menand wrote in The New Yorker. “He used to type out pages from The Great Gatsby, just to get the feeling, he said, of what it was like to write that way, and Fitzgerald’s novel was continually on his mind while he was working on Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, which was published, after a prolonged and agonizing compositional nightmare, in 1972.”

"If you type out somebody's work, you learn a lot about it,” Thompson told Charlie Rose in 1997. “Amazingly it's like music. And from typing out parts of Faulkner, Hemingway, Fitzgerald—these were writers that were very big in my life and the lives of the people around me—so yeah, I wanted to learn from the best I guess."

5. HE RAN FOR SHERIFF IN COLORADO.

In 1970, Thompson ran for sheriff of Pitkin County, Colorado on what he called the Freak Power ticket. Among his political tactics: shaving his head so that he could refer to his opponent as his “long-haired opponent,” promising to eat mescaline while on duty, and campaigning to rename Aspen “Fat City” to deter "greed heads, land-rapers, and other human jackals from capitalizing on the name 'Aspen.'" Unfortunately, he lost.

6. HE STOLE A MEMENTO FROM ERNEST HEMINGWAY.

In 1964, three years after Ernest Hemingway committed suicide at his cabin in Ketchum, Idaho, Thompson traveled to the late author’s home in order to write “What Lured Hemingway to Ketchum?” While there, according to his widow, Hunter “got caught up in the moment” and took “a big pair of elk horns over the front door.” Last year, more than a decade after Thompson’s death, Anita returned the antlers to the Hemingway family—which is something she and Hunter had always planned to do. “They were warm and kind of tickled … they were so open and grateful, there was no weirdness,” Anita said.

7. HE ONCE USED THE INSIDE OF MUSICIAN JOHN OATES’ COLORADO CABIN AS HIS PERSONAL PARKING SPACE.

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Earlier this month, musician John Oates—the latter half of Hall & Oates—shared a story about his ranch in Woody Creek, Colorado, just outside of Aspen, which is currently on the market for $6 million. In an interview with Colorado Public Radio, Oates recalled how when he first purchased the cabin, there was a red convertible parked inside. “I happened to ask the real estate agent who owned the convertible, and he said ‘your neighbor Hunter Thompson,’” Oates said. “Why is he keeping his car in a piece of property he doesn’t own? The real estate agent looked at me and said ‘It’s Woody Creek, you’ll figure this out. It’s a different kind of place.’” After sending several letters to his neighbor to retrieve his vehicle, Oates took matters into his own hands and deposited the car on Thompson’s lawn. Oates said that the two became friends, but never mentioned the incident.

8. AT HIS FUNERAL, HIS ASHES WERE SHOT OUT OF A CANNON.

On February 20, 2005—at the age of 67—Thompson committed suicide. But Thompson wasn’t about to leave this world quietly. In August of that year, in accordance with his wishes, Thompson's ashes were shot into the air from a cannon while fireworks filled the sky.

“He loved explosions," his widow, Anita, told ESPN, which wrote that, “The private celebration included actors Bill Murray and Johnny Depp, rock bands, blowup dolls and plenty of liquor to honor Thompson, who killed himself six months ago at the age of 67.”

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15 Memorable Quotes from George A. Romero
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Hollywood has lost one of its most iconic horror innovators with the death of George A. Romero, who passed away on Sunday at the age of 77. “He died peacefully in his sleep, following a brief but aggressive battle with lung cancer, and leaves behind a loving family, many friends, and a filmmaking legacy that has endured, and will continue to endure, the test of time,” his manager, Chris Roe, said in a statement.

Though he rose to prominence as the master of zombie flicks, beginning with Night of the Living Dead, Romero honed his filmmaking skills on a far less frightening set: shooting bits for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.

“I still joke that 'Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy' is the scariest film I’ve ever made,” Romero once said. “What I really mean is that I was scared sh*tless while I was trying to pull it off.” (Rogers returned the favor by being a longtime champion of Romero’s work—and even called Dawn of the Dead “a lot of fun.”)

It’s that high-spirited sense of fun that made Romero’s work so iconic—and kept the New York City native busy for nearly 50 years. To celebrate his life and career, here are 15 of his most memorable quotes on everything from the humanity of zombies to the horror of Hollywood producers.

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING A SENSE OF HUMOR

“For a Catholic kid in parochial school, the only way to survive the beatings—by classmates, not the nuns—was to be the funny guy.”

ON THE HOLLYWOOD WAY

“If I fail, the film industry writes me off as another statistic. If I succeed, they pay me a million bucks to fly out to Hollywood and fart.”

ON BEING PIGEONHOLED

“As a filmmaker you get typecast just as much as an actor does, so I'm trapped in a genre that I love, but I'm trapped in it!”

ON ZOMBIES AS A METAPHOR

“I also have always liked the monster within idea. I like the zombies being us. Zombies are the blue-collar monsters.”

ON FINDING OBJECTIVITY AS A FILMMAKER

“There are so many factors when you think of your own films. You think of the people you worked on it with, and somehow forget the movie. You can't forgive the movie for a long time. It takes a few years to look at it with any objectivity and forgive its flaws.”

ON THE REAL VALUE OF THE INTERNET

“What the Internet's value is that you have access to information but you also have access to every lunatic that's out there that wants to throw up a blog.”

ON THE HORROR OF DEALING WITH PRODUCERS

“I'll never get sick of zombies. I just get sick of producers.”

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF COLLABORATION

“Collaborate, don’t dictate.”

ON THE BEAUTY OF LOW-BUDGET MOVIEMAKING

“I don't think you need to spend $40 million to be creepy. The best horror films are the ones that are much less endowed.”

ON HUMANS BEING THE REAL VILLAINS

“My zombies will never take over the world because I need the humans. The humans are the ones I dislike the most, and they're where the trouble really lies.”

ON BEING IMMUNE TO TRENDS

“Somehow I've been able to keep standing and stay in my little corner and do my little stuff and I'm not particularly affected by trends or I'm not dying to make a 3-D movie or anything like that. I'm just sort of happy to still be around.”

ON THE HUMANITY OF HORROR

“My stories are about humans and how they react, or fail to react, or react stupidly. I'm pointing the finger at us, not at the zombies. I try to respect and sympathize with the zombies as much as possible.”

ON THE ENDURING APPEAL OF HORROR

“If one horror film hits, everyone says, 'Let's go make a horror film.' It's the genre that never dies.”

ON THE IMPORTANCE OF SURROUNDING ZOMBIES WITH STUPID PEOPLE

“A zombie film is not fun without a bunch of stupid people running around and observing how they fail to handle the situation.”

ON LIFE AFTER DEATH

“I'm like my zombies. I won't stay dead!”

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