Babe Ruth Story, The (1948): Biopic of Famed New York Yankees Player, Starring William Bendix

Babe Ruth to boy Johnny in hospital, “you can’t quit…hang out.”

Earnest and heavyhanded to a fault, The Babe Ruth Story, a biopic of Babe Ruth, the famed New York Yankees slugger, stars William Bendix as the ballplayer and Claire Trevor as his wife.

The tale begins in 1906 at the Baltimore Waterfront, where 11-year-old George Herman Ruth Jr. is taken away by Brother Matthias from George’s abusive father to St. Mary’s. When George is 18, his baseball talent gets him hired to play for the Baltimore Orioles, and during the interview, he gets his “Babe” nickname.

Babe becomes a successful baseball player, and is soon sold off to play for the Boston Red Sox. After a bad game, Babe wonders what went wrong at a bar, until he is told by Claire Hogsdon that when he pitches he sticks out his tongue. He continues his success, landing a new $100,000 contract. He finds Claire, but she gives him the cold shoulder. During one game, Denny, a sick paralyzed child, and his father watch Babe Ruth play. When Babe says “Hiya, kid” to the boy, the child is miraculously cured and stands up.

Babe soon becomes a player for the New York Yankees. During one game, he accidentally hurts a dog, and decides to take the dog and the dog’s young owner to the hospital. After Babe argues with the doctors that a dog is the same as a human, the dog is treated, but because Babe left a game to do this, he gets suspended from the Yankees. A depressed Babe Ruth finds himself at a bar, and amidst the crowd giving off negative vibes, he starts a fight and gets arrested.
Soon, he decides to play Santa Claus at a Children’s Hospital, where he runs into Claire again, visiting her nephew. She tells him that his actions affect the children of America, and Babe decides to keep that in mind. Miller Huggins, the same man who suspended Babe, fights to bring him back to the Yankees as the team has had a bad season. Babe is soon brought back, and the team wins the World Series thanks to him. With this, he and Claire get married. Soon after, Huggins dies from pyaemia.

During Game 3 of the 1932 World Series, Babe gets a call from the father of a dying child, and promises the father that when he goes up to bat, he will call the third shot and the ball will land at a certain spot. During the game, Babe does exactly that, and the boy hears the news and starts to get better.

Babe retires from the Yankees at the age of 41, and takes a management position with the Boston Braves, even though they want him to play in the games. During one game, Babe gets stressed out and can’t continue playing, after which he retires.

Later learns that he is dying of throat cancer, news that leads to numerous fan letters. As Babe is taken to surgery, the narrator gives words of encouragement to baseball fans, crediting Babe Ruth for America’s love of the sport.

Jack Carson, the first choice for the lead, could not be released from Warner, and so Bendix won the coveted part.

The earnest biopic is fictionalized in major respects, like failing to mention Ruth’s first wife, Helen.

The film was rushed into production and completion due to news of Ruth’s rapidly declining health–it was released three weeks before he died.

Cast
William Bendix as Babe Ruth
Claire Trevor as Claire Hodgson Ruth
Charles Bickford as Brother Matthias
William Frawley as Jack Dunn
Robert Ellis as Babe Ruth as a Boy
Sam Levene as Phil Conrad
Matt Briggs as Col. Jacob Ruppert
Fred Lightner as Miller Huggins
Mark Koenig as Himself
Mel Allen as Himself
H.V. Kaltenborn as Himself

Note:

TCM showed the movie on March 31, 2020.