I never knew where my father lived, but every Christmas he mailed presents. He sent a baseball bat the year Babe Ruth appeared in San Francisco for an off-season golf tournament. A genuine Louisville Slugger. I carried it with me to the course; but every day, the Bambino played through. On the last day, he stopped at the end of #14 and waved toward the crowd.
Mother and I lived across from the 15th green. I promised to stand near the sand trap so she could see me from the window. When the Babe waved, I waved too. Then it happened. Before his putt, he walked past the trap and through the reporters that clustered around him, moving when he moved, and smiled. He was tipping his hat, then he came my way. He came my way.
The media parted for him like the Red Sea for Moses. Cars stopped on the Presidio as drivers leaned to get a view. Phosphorus trays flashed beside excited photographers. I remember thinking how fat he was, belly pouring over the waistband of his tight plaid pants. Then he kneeled beside me so that he could look me straight in the eye as he gave me advice.
The Babe told me to stay in school because reading and writing were good things to know. He told me to listen to my mother because mothers were the most important people in the world. Then he called for a pen, and a dozen reporters offered one. He signed my Christmas bat with just two words: The Babe. Then he disappeared into the Red Sea of murmuring reporters.
I don’t have the Louisville Slugger anymore. Sold it for food during the Depression. (We all did tough things to stay alive.) But I still think of The Babe every time I watch a ball game. Still think of that autograph on the 15th green every time I see infield grass on a sunny day, every time I see a baseball player reach for his favorite bat, touch his skin to the skin of that wood.
– S. A. Robbins
Author’s Note: this prose poem has not been previously published; however, it was read to attendees of a 1995 conference in honor of babe Ruth’s 100th Birthday, sponsored by New York’s Hofstra University, attended by Julia Ruth Stevens (descendant). Other presenters included the Honorable Rudy Giuiliani, Mel Allen, Bob Feller, Harmon Killebrew, and Robin Roberts.