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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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Get Crazy With the Official Bob Ross Coloring Book
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If you watched Bob Ross's classic series The Joy of Painting for hours on end but didn’t come away a terribly capable artist, you can still enjoy replicating the amazing public television personality’s work. You can now pretend you’re painting along with the late, great PBS star using a brand-new adult coloring book based on his art.

The Bob Ross Coloring Book (Universe) is the first authorized coloring book based on Ross’s artistic archive. Ross, who would have turned 75 later this year, was all about giving his fans the confidence to pursue art even without extensive training. “There’s an artist hidden at the bottom of every single one of us,” the gentle genius said. So what better way to honor his memory than to relax with his coloring book?

Here’s a sneak peek of some of the Ross landscapes you can recreate, all while flipping through some of his best quotes and timeless tidbits of wisdom.

An black-and-white outline of a Bob ross painting of a mountain valley

A black-and-white outline of a Bob Ross painting shows a house nestled among trees.

A black-and-white outline of a Bob Ross painting shows a farm scene.

And remember, even if you color outside the lines, it’s still a work of art. As Ross said, “We don’t make mistakes. We just have happy accidents.”

You can find The Bob Ross Coloring Book for about $14 on Amazon. Oh, and if you need even more Ross in your life, there’s now a Bob Ross wall calendar, too.

All images courtesy of Rizzoli.

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Kevin Winter/Getty Images
8 Movies That Almost Starred Keanu Reeves
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Kevin Winter/Getty Images

He may not have the natural ease of Al Pacino, the classical training of Anthony Hopkins, the timeless cool of Jack Nicholson, or the raw versatility of Gary Oldman, but Keanu Reeves has been around long enough to have worked alongside each of those actors. Yet instead of Oscar nods, the actor whose first name means “cool breeze over the mountains” in Hawaiian has a handful of Razzie nominations.

While critical acclaim has mostly eluded Reeves during his 30-plus years in Hollywood, his movies have made nearly $2 billion at the box office. Whether because of his own choosiness or the decisions of studio powers-that-be, that tally could be much, much higher. To celebrate The Chosen One’s 53rd birthday, here are eight movies that almost starred Keanu Reeves.

1. X-MEN (2000)

In Hollywood’s version of the X-Men universe, Hugh Jackman is the definitive Wolverine. But Jackman himself was a last-minute replacement (for Dougray Scott) and other, bigger (in 2000) names were considered for the hirsute superhero—including Reeves. Ultimately, it was the studio that decided to go in a different direction, much to Reeves’ disappointment. “I always wanted to play Wolverine,” the actor told Moviefone in 2014. “But I didn't get that. And they have a great Wolverine now. I always wanted to play The Dark Knight. But I didn't get that one. They've had some great Batmans. So now I'm just enjoying them as an audience.”

2. PLATOON (1986)

For an action star, Reeves isn’t a huge fan of violence, which is why he passed on playing the lead in Oliver Stone’s Oscar-winning Vietnam classic. “Keanu turned it down because of the violence,” Stone told Entertainment Weekly in 2011. “He didn’t want to do violence.”

3. THE FLY II (1989)

Few people would likely mistake Reeves for the son of Jeff Goldblum, but producers were anxious to see him play the next generation of Goldblum’s insectile role in the sequel to The Fly. But Reeves wasn’t having any of it. Why? Simple: “I didn't like the script,” he told Movieline in 1990.


Speaking of sequels (and bad scripts): Reeves was ready to reprise his role as Jack Traven in Jan de Bont’s second go at the series … then he read it. “When I was offered Speed 2, Jan came to Chicago and so did Sandra, and they said, ‘You’ve got to do this,’” Reeves recalled to The Telegraph. “And I said, 'I read the script and I can’t. It’s called Speed, and it’s on a cruise ship.” (He's got a point.)

Even when the studio dangled a $12 million paycheck in front of him, Reeves said no. “I told [William Mechanic, then-head of Fox], ‘If I do this film, I will not come back up. You guys will send me to the bottom of the ocean and I will not make it back up again.’ I really felt like I was fighting for my life.”

5. HEAT (1995)

Reeves’ refusal to cave on Speed 2 didn’t sit well in Hollywood circles. And it didn't help that he also passed on playing Chris Shiherlis (Val Kilmer’s role) in Michael Mann’s Heat in order to spend a month playing Hamlet at Canada’s Manitoba Theatre Centre. From that point on, Reeves told The Telegraph that it’s been a struggle for him to book any studio movies. “That’s a good old Hollywood story! That was a whole, 'Hey, kid, this is what happens in Hollywood: I said no to the number two and I never worked with the studio again!’”

6. BOWFINGER (1999)

By the time Frank Oz’s Bowfinger rolled around, Eddie Murphy was pretty much the go-to guy for any dual role part, but the movie wasn’t always intended to play that way. Steve Martin, who both starred in and wrote the movie, had actually penned the part of Kit Ramsey for Reeves (whom he had worked with a decade earlier in Parenthood).

“When Steve gave me the script for Bowfinger, it wasn't written for Eddie Murphy,” producer Brian Grazer explained. “It was written for a white action star. It was written for Keanu Reeves, literally. I said, 'Why does it have to be an action star?' He said, 'That's the joke.' I said: 'What if it were Eddie Murphy, and Eddie Murphy played two characters? That could be really funny.' He said: 'You know, that'd be great—that'd be brilliant. Let's do that.' He processed it in about a minute, and he made a creative sea change.”

7. WATCHMEN (2009)

A year before Zack Snyder’s Watchmen hit theaters, Reeves confirmed to MTV what many had speculated: that he had turned down the chance to play Dr. Manhattan in the highly anticipated adaptation. But it wasn’t because of lack of interest on Reeves’ part; it just “didn't work out.” Still, he made it as far as a set visit: “They were shooting in Vancouver while we were filming so I went over to the set to say, 'hi.' They showed me some stuff and it looks amazing! I can’t wait. It’s going to be so killer, man!”


By the time Ben Stiller’s Tropic Thunder made its way into theaters in the summer of 2008, the meta-comedy had been more than a decade in the making. So it’s understandable that the final product veered from Stiller’s original plan for the film, which included Reeves playing the role of Tugg Speedman (Stiller’s eventual part). Initially, Stiller had planned to cast himself as smarmy agent Rick Peck (Matthew McConaughey picked up the slack).


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