Long-Lost Babe Ruth Interview Discovered In Prep School Archives The interview is part of a collection donated to Cheshire Academy 20 years ago by broadcaster Joe Hasel. A Ruth historian tells NPR the recording offers some new insights about the ballplayer.

Long-Lost Babe Ruth Interview Discovered In Prep School Archives

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ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Baseball lovers have obsessed over Babe Ruth for more than a century. The Sultan of Swat has a dedicated exhibit at the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown and his own museum in Baltimore. Dozens of books have been written about his legendary career. But as Diane Orson of Connecticut Public Radio reports, a long-forgotten interview with Babe has some surprises for even his most devoted fans.

DIANE ORSON, BYLINE: Linda Ruth Tosetti's living room in rural Connecticut is filled with photos of her grandfather, George Herman Ruth Jr., the legendary baseball player known as the Babe.

LINDA RUTH TOSETTI: I have a picture that he's holding a kid. And if you look at the empathy in his eyes...

ORSON: Tosetti travels the country as a spokesperson for the Ruth family. She throws out pitches at games, autographs baseballs and talks at local libraries about the famed slugger. She never got to meet him. He died before she was born.

TOSETTI: I know he hit home runs. Ever since I've been young, my journey is to find out, how did he feel when he hit those home runs?

ORSON: She'll never be able to ask him that, but now we know a little more about how he did it. A long-lost radio interview has turned up in the archives of a private school here in Connecticut. The Babe shares details that even sports historians didn't know, like how he gripped his bat.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

BABE RUTH: I used to always bat different because I'd always put my little finger on the knob of the bat so I could do the follow-through on my swing.

ORSON: What's it like hearing his voice?

TOSETTI: Oh, it's amazing 'cause it's just another, I guess, contact with him.

ORSON: The 13-minute recording was made during World War II by the Armed Forces Radio Service. It's part of a collection donated to Cheshire Academy by the sports announcer Joe Hasel, an alumnus. The school's Brian Otis says Hasel never made clear who or what were on the tapes. In fact, Otis thought they were play-by-play broadcasts.

BRIAN OTIS: He talked about experiences of calling games at the Cotton Bowl, boxing matches in Madison Square Garden. Had I known then what I know now, I would have been more thorough and spent more time with Joe.

ORSON: The recordings were preserved on a type of electronic transcription disc that's too big to fit on record players.

OTIS: So I didn't know where you could get the equipment to even play the stuff.

ORSON: And they sat for two decades in the school's archives. When they were finally digitized, they turned out to be Hasel's interviews with many of the greatest athletes of the day like boxer Jack Dempsey, ball player manager Casey Stengel and the Babe. Historian Michael Gibbons at the Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation in Baltimore says Ruth did plenty of interviews, but this discovery offers new insights.

MICHAEL GIBBONS: The way that he positioned his feet in the batter's box - I have never heard that really discussed before.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RUTH: Well, I'd always put my front foot towards the home plate and the back foot back a little bit so I'd give you a perfect pivot.

GIBBONS: The other thing - the fact that he says he was superstitious.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RUTH: Well, I guess I was, and everybody knows it. I always touched second base going in from the infield to the outfield or vice versa.

ORSON: Ruth was long retired by the time of the 1943 interview, and he died five years later. Still, Gibbons says any time something new involving the star comes along it generates interest. That's in part, says Gibbons, because his domination of the sport of baseball in the 1920s came to be seen as emblematic of the spirit of America.

GIBBONS: Everything that he did on the ball field was almost godly. America was kind of filling up with itself. And Babe Ruth was a great symbol of that burgeoning power that was the United States.

TOSETTI: Listen to this guy.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RUTH: (Unintelligible) At the ball park.

TOSETTI: (Laughter).

ORSON: And while legions of sports fans and historians may now clamor to learn more about this Ruthian (ph) find, Linda Ruth Tosetti says she's just happy for another chance to hear her grandfather's voice. For NPR News, I'm Diane Orson in New Haven.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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