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Was Babe Ruth Black?

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  • Was Babe Ruth Black?

    “Preposterous!” “Ridiculous!” “Outrageous!” These may be your knee-jerk reactions to what I’m about to hypothesize --- Babe Ruth may have had an African-American ancestry. I’ll begin by saying that my theory is based purely on speculation. I’ve done no DNA testing, no tissue or bone-marrow sampling, nor have I thoroughly researched Ruth’s genealogical background (I believe he was of Irish and German ancestry).

    All I can personally offer in defense of my theory is the most basic of social sciences’ methodologies — observation. Yet I contend that “The Sultan of Swat,” “The Bambino,” the man who belted 60 home runs in 1927, and 714 overall (without the use of steroids, I might add), may have had an African-American lineage.

    Now, you may ask, “On what do you base this off-the-wall premise?” My thinking is based pure and simply on a picture. More specifically, a photograph that I saw of Babe Ruth on page 15 of SI’s 2004 Commemorative World Series issue. It shows Ruth, wearing a Red Sox uniform, standing in front of what appears to be a dugout.

    Well, as I looked at Ruth in that photo, my eyes were immediately drawn to his face. I was struck by his piercing brown (at least I believed they were brown) eyes and his slightly protruding ears. Yet, the part of "the Bambino's" face I was rivetted to was Ruth’s nose. Yes, his nose. More specifically, Ruth’s nasal structure. Not only is Ruth’s nose broad and large (flattened at the bridge), but it also has large nostrils. Anatomically, a nasal structure of that type is more consistent with and characteristic of a person of African-American heritage than say, a Caucasian person. I know what I am saying here is quite stereotypic. I fully admit that. And one could retort by saying: “Didn’t the Italo-American comedian Jimmy Durante have a huge proboscis?

    You are likely aware that there are countless Caucasian (white) people who have Negro ancestry. In some cases, they may not even be aware of it. Case in point. There are many seemingly all-white Negro relatives of our third President: Thomas Jefferson. It has been established through DNA testing that Jefferson had relations with his prized Negro slave, Sally Hemming. And, that there was a child (or even children) produced by that relationship. Only in recent years have Jefferson’s ancestors learned that some of their kin are of African-American ancestry.

    Further, Spike Lee, the film maker, was supposed to write an article in the May, 2001 edition of Gotham Magazine (I don’t believe it was ever written) alluding to the premise that Ruth was partly African-American. In the 1993 book, “Baseball Anecdotes,” by Daniel Okrent and Steve Wulf, the authors contend that Ruth did have Negro ancestry.

    Further, the legendary Ty Cobb suspected that Ruth might have been of African heritage. It is reported that Cobb refused to share a Georia hunting lodge with Ruth, Cobb is reported to have said, "I've never bedded down with a n----- and I'm not going to start now." Yet, I might add that after their retirements, Cobb and Ruth went on to become good friends.

    Getting back to Spike Lee, he tells the story that his father, a big baseball fan, once told him that Babe Ruth had “some of the ‘tar brush’ in him.” In reality we may never know. They’d have to exhume Ruth’s body to do DNA testing to conclusively determine Ruth’s racial heritage. A highly unlikely event. To further corroboate that point, it's reported that Hall of Famer Hank Aaron once said, “They’re not going to dig up the Babe. They don’t want that revealed, that there could have been an ounce of black blood in him.”

    As I recall, Barry Bonds made a big deal of hitting his 715th career home run back in May, 2006. I believe he made some reference to moving ahead of baseball's “White Icon” (my expression) in round-trippers. Come to think of it, wouldn’t it be ironic if we and Bonds found out that Ruth wasn’t totally white, after all.

  • #2
    People have wondered whether Ruth was black since during his playing days, but nobody has ever found any evidence to support the rumors.

    By the way, Ruth's father looked exactly like him -- big nose and all.

    At the end of the day, it really doesn't make a difference. But it would be ironic if the biggest player during the "color line era" was himself black. However, I think this has been investigated, and nothing has been found. Robert Creamer addressed this issue in his bio, "Babe -- the Legend Comes to Life."
    "Hey Mr. McGraw! Can I pitch to-day?"

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    • #3
      Originally posted by wdl View Post
      Well, as I looked at Ruth in that photo, my eyes were immediately drawn to his face. I was struck by his piercing brown (at least I believed they were brown) eyes and his slightly protruding ears. Yet, the part of "the Bambino's" face I was rivetted to was Ruth’s nose. Yes, his nose. More specifically, Ruth’s nasal structure. Not only is Ruth’s nose broad and large (flattened at the bridge), but it also has large nostrils. Anatomically, a nasal structure of that type is more consistent with and characteristic of a person of African-American heritage than say, a Caucasian person. I know what I am saying here is quite stereotypic. I fully admit that. And one could retort by saying: “Didn’t the Italo-American comedian Jimmy Durante have a huge proboscis?

      You are likely aware that there are countless Caucasian (white) people who have Negro ancestry. In some cases, they may not even be aware of it. Case in point. There are many seemingly all-white Negro relatives of our third President: Thomas Jefferson. It has been established through DNA testing that Jefferson had relations with his prized Negro slave, Sally Hemming. And, that there was a child (or even children) produced by that relationship. Only in recent years have Jefferson’s ancestors learned that some of their kin are of African-American ancestry.

      Further, Spike Lee, the film maker, was supposed to write an article in the May, 2001 edition of Gotham Magazine (I don’t believe it was ever written) alluding to the premise that Ruth was partly African-American. In the 1993 book, “Baseball Anecdotes,” by Daniel Okrent and Steve Wulf, the authors contend that Ruth did have Negro ancestry.

      Further, the legendary Ty Cobb suspected that Ruth might have been of African heritage. It is reported that Cobb refused to share a Georia hunting lodge with Ruth, Cobb is reported to have said, "I've never bedded down with a n----- and I'm not going to start now." Yet, I might add that after their retirements, Cobb and Ruth went on to become good friends.
      There could have been any number of MLB players before (or possibly even after) 1947 who "passed" for white while they knew they had black ancestry, or as you have said, they may not have been aware. I'm black and proud of my heritage, but if I were very light-skinned and this were 1908 instead of 2008, I'd pass myself off and never look back (as many certainly did). Successful passing guaranteed you could live, work and marry where or whom you wanted, and be treated with respect. Those people who looked white and chose not to pass (like Homer Plessy) must have had courage of steel.
      Last edited by bryanac625; 01-09-2008, 12:06 PM.

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      • #4
        Ty Cobb thought so.


        /end crappy joke.
        sigpic

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        • #5
          No evidence here - just speculation. No facts. No case.

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          • #6
            Even if there is some evidence that Ruth had some black ancestry it really doesn't matter because during his playing days he was thought of as white and I'm sure Ruth thought himself as white.
            Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

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            • #7
              It's well known that during his youth, Ruth was often called "****** Lips."
              THE REVOLUTION WILL NOT COME WITH A SCORECARD

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              • #8
                Originally posted by digglahhh View Post
                It's well known that during his youth, Ruth was often called "****** Lips."
                I was called that, too, as a kid! Kids can be so ignorant.
                Strikeouts are boring! Besides that, they're fascist. Throw some ground balls - it's more democratic.-Crash Davis

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                • #9
                  I have heard the whole Babe Ruth was black for long time now, Totally based on his nose and big lips. The Babe was German! If you ever seen the old photo of his father at his Tavern he looked just like the Babe! I have seen Babe's nose on many German people and even Irish (in Ireland so little doubt they had much African blood in them) and when the Babe got old he didn't look like anything else but an middle aged white guy!

                  Like it matters black people and white people have been in this country since the 1600's. So, most of us are not "pure" Black or White anyway! and longer your family has been here there is even more of a chance you have at least some mixed blood ( A thing I like to bring up to White Power Redneck idiots!) You can tell by how Black Americans look compared to Native Africans . You can see Irish, Italian, Spanish, French and tons of other Nationalities features in the faces of Black Americans. Like how some black people even have blue or light colored eyes( Which is wicked hot on girls!!)

                  hell, I know for a fact that I have black blood on my Father's side! ( my dad is half Native American Indain and I have a bunch of Black Cousins) My one uncle even looks like Spike Lee! and I am White as German snow fall ( I actually look like a St. Patrick's day decoration, yes, sad but true) My Girlfriend is Scottish and native American Indain, but she has big full lips and she has gotten confussed for Latino, Mellado, Japanese or some combination of any of those, and she is mostly white!

                  The speculation of Babe Ruth's race is basically because of his nose and lips. Which could even been seen as racist( I don't but I can see how some would) and no other evidence! It's so silly and dosen't matter any way. If babe had black blood in him it was some distance relation which makes he no difference than most of America! He wasn't Black he just had big Lips!!!
                  39 AL Pennants • 26 World Series titles
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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Urbanshocker13 View Post
                    I have heard the whole Babe Ruth was black for long time now, Totally based on his nose and big lips. The Babe was German! If you ever seen the old photo of his father at his Tavern he looked just like the Babe! I have seen Babe's nose on many German people and even Irish (in Ireland so little doubt they had much African blood in them) and when the Babe got old he didn't look like anything else but an middle aged white guy!

                    Like it matters black people and white people have been in this country since the 1600's. So, most of us are not "pure" Black or White anyway! and longer your family has been here there is even more of a chance you have at least some mixed blood ( A thing I like to bring up to White Power Redneck idiots!) You can tell by how Black Americans look compared to Native Africans . You can see Irish, Italian, Spanish, French and tons of other Nationalities features in the faces of Black Americans. Like how some black people even have blue or light colored eyes( Which is wicked hot on girls!!)

                    hell, I know for a fact that I have black blood on my Father's side! ( my dad is half Native American Indain and I have a bunch of Black Cousins) My one uncle even looks like Spike Lee! and I am White as German snow fall ( I actually look like a St. Patrick's day decoration, yes, sad but true) My Girlfriend is Scottish and native American Indain, but she has big full lips and she has gotten confussed for Latino, Mellado, Japanese or some combination of any of those, and she is mostly white!

                    The speculation of Babe Ruth's race is basically because of his nose and lips. Which could even been seen as racist( I don't but I can see how some would) and no other evidence! It's so silly and dosen't matter any way. If babe had black blood in him it was some distance relation which makes he no difference than most of America! He wasn't Black he just had big Lips!!!
                    I second this energetic post by UrbanShocker!!!! I have a friend who is Sicilian and he's "mistaken" for being hispanic and black all the time. It's all looks, which are incredibly irrelevant.
                    CLEVELAND INDIANS Central Division Champions

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                    • #11
                      I think it would be a source of pride to the African-American community if it were determined that Babe Ruth were of partial African blood. I believe we all take pride in our own heritage. When someone from our lineage excels, I think we frequently admire them and their accomplishments.

                      Tangentially, some of our greatest athletes (I'm sure you can name many) are of combined Negro and Caucasian backgrounds, e.g., Derek Jeter, Franco Harris, Roy Campanella...the list could go on and on.

                      Ted Williams once said that if he resembled his mother ,who was dark and swarthy (she was of Mexican background with a possible French lineage) instead of his father (English, fair-skinned), he believes he would not have received the warm acceptance that he did receive around the League. By the way, Williams' younger brother Danny had a dark complexion like his mother.

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                      • #12
                        I don't care what color he was I still say that Franco Harris picked up a bounced pass against the Raiders in 1972.

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                        • #13
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                          • #14
                            I have a buddy who is of "pure" German farmer stock going way back and he has the Babe Ruth broad nose and face, as does most everybody in his family. Unlike Ruth, they are almost all blonde, but the facial structure is very similar.
                            I'm sure it's possible that, somehow, Babe's dad could have had some recent African ancestors, but I see no reason to assume that. And, it is true, the Babe was almost a dead ringer for his old man.
                            babeanddad.jpg
                            "If I drink whiskey, I'll never get worms!" - Hack Wilson

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                            • #15
                              I think it would be most likely Ruth got the African DNA (if he had any) from his Irish ancestors on his mothers side as Irish and African slaves sometimes produced offspring, willingly or forcibly. I have no idea if an old Irish ancestor was a slave or not though.
                              "No matter how great you were once upon a time — the years go by, and men forget,” - W. A. Phelon in Baseball Magazine in 1915. “Ross Barnes, forty years ago, was as great as Cobb or Wagner ever dared to be. Had scores been kept then as now, he would have seemed incomparably marvelous.”

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