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Article:Babe and the Hug

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A lot has been said about the relationship between Miller Huggins the great New York Yankees manager of the 20's and his sometimes problematic relationship with his star Babe Ruth.

The Babe was known for doing all kinds of things to Miller: locking him in a players locker, eating his favorite hat, gluing things down on his desk... all kind of things. He was a practical joker of the worst kind. He didn't like rules and generally didn't fellow them and when Miller would speak, Babe would make fun of his speech and his size. He was constantly patting him on the head and disrespecting him most of the time. According to the sportswriters of the time, it was seen as the Babe against the little guy: the Boss.

Let me tell you a true story about the real relationship between Babe and Miller. I first got to meet Miller Huggins on my first birthday, Sept. 1919, when he had come over to my grandfather's farm for dinner and ended up staying for a couple of days of hunting and fishing. He would continue to come to the farm until just before the 1929 season when he died during the last weeks of the baseball season.

I grew up on the farm with great numbers of Major League players coming and going during the off seasons. Rogers Hornsby, Nap Lajoie, Waite Hoyt, Lefty Grove, Walter Johnson, Christy Mathewson, Grover Cleveland Alexander, and one of my favorite people and players of all time and most of my grandfathers' and fathers' closest friends Shoeless Joe Jackson. I spent hours and hours listening to the stories that were being told at the dinner table and fireplace. How they all hated Cobb because he was a real S.o.B. and didn't care about anyone but himself. My dad knew Cobb, but I never saw him at the house because my father told me years later if he had invited him, all kinds of stuff might have happened because they hated him that much.

But enough of that story. Let me get back to the beginning here. During the 1924 series, I first got to see and meet the Babe. My grandfather and father were extremely good baseball players in their own right, but family responsibilities forced them to make a choice, and that was to stop playing baseball and work on the farm. I used to sit and talk to Huggie (as I got to call him he never let anyone else call him that and he really used to get mad when the Babe did it).

Babe started coming around during the 1925 season and continued until he was traded by the Yankees in the middle 1930's. Babe was wonderful and Huggie use to say to me that all he was actually was a big kid playing baseball and loving every minute of it and he played baseball just like Miller did in the early part of the century with the Cincinnati Reds as a very good secondbaseman. My father and grandfather got to know him during the 1904 season and they became fast friends for life and that was when Miller Huggins started showing up on my grandfathers' farm. (Too many stories here and sometimes they all run together, but, I loved Huggie like a second grandfather and we would talk for hours on end about baseball and life: about hunting and fishing and some many other things I can't even remember.)

I think it was just after the Murderers' Row season that Huggie was at the farm and we were fishing down on the lake and for some reason he started laughing to himself, this was strange for him so I asked him why he was laughing and he turned to me and said, "I was laughing at what Babe was doing after the series." It just came to me why he was always doing those out-of-line things. I didn't understand, but I remember now that he also said that he really liked the Babe. What about all the terrible things he does to you and why do you always take it without blowing up? I don't remember Miller having a temper, but sometimes he did get a little hot under the collar. Anyway, he says to me, "He is only a kid down deep and he plays the game of baseball the same way I did." I just love watching him play the game. Now you have to remember here that I was only 9 years old, but he kept on talking about the unbelievable things the Babe can do not just at the plate but in the field and even on the bases. He makes me laugh.

Now the other side of this is about a year after Miller Huggins dies in September of 1929 the Babe is at the farm with Gehrig, Waite, Hornsby, Johnson and Mathewson and some others and they are playing out in the back field like they all did for over 30 years. I am a little short of being 11 years old and I am sitting on the porch when the Babe comes out of the kitchen door and pats me on the head and says you doing OK. He is drinking some of my grandmother's coffee and sits down on the bench and says to me, "Yeah kid, I miss him too."

"I thought you didn't like him" I asked him and he just laughed that great Ruthian laugh of his and looked me straight in the eyes and said, "Hell, I didn't want him to know I liked him it wouldn't be any fun if he knew that. I couldn't do all the jokes anymore. I learned from the best under Huggie and believe me I miss him too. He made me laugh and there were all kinds of times I knew he was right and I was wrong but I just kept going against the grain anyway. I was one lucky ballplayer to have Huggie as a manager for all those years."

A lot of things are going through my mind when I think about what both of them use to say to me. But I can honestly say that the two of them never seemed to get along outside to the public eye and to sportswriters but there was genuine respect from both to each other.

The only other time I ever heard Ruth talk about how great another player was when he talked about Shoeless Joe and what happened to him because of Landis. And he would talk about Ted Williams when he first came up. The Babe said at my grandfather's farmhouse that his was one of the prettiest swings he had even seen.

Later on during the second world war I became good friends with Ted when we were both stationed in the Pacific at Wake Island. Ted and I talked for hours a day about baseball and fishing, and after the war, I got to fish with Ted anytime we got together, especially after he retired in the early 60's. During the last days of the war, Ted was flying missions over the Pacific Island group and after one of the longer ones we were sitting in the mess hall and drinking tea when I asked him about what he remembered about Ruth. He told me almost the exact same thing Babe told me 15 years earlier. You have one of the sweetest swings I have ever seen, and then told me that it had stuck in his mind since. He wondered how I knew and when I told him about my childhood the stories for both of us really got going. So if anyone says that Ruth didn't like Miller Huggins then are completely wrong because I knew both of them and knew how they both felted about each other. Maybe that is why I loved Ruth besides being the greatest home run hitter of all time the Babe was just like you and I, a big kid at heart who just loved to play the game of baseball...


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