Babe Ruth’s grand­daugh­ter shares slug­ger’s story

The News-Times - - NEIGHBORS - By Michael P. Mayko

On April 25, nearly 85 base­ball en­thu­si­asts packed the Derby li­brary’s meet­ing room to hear Linda Ruth Tosetti spin tales for nearly two hours about the grand­fa­ther she never met.

“I’ve stud­ied (Babe Ruth’s) per­sonal life,” said Tosetti, of Durham, who was born in 1954, six years af­ter the Bam­bino’s death. “I’m con­sid­ered one of the lead­ing au­thor­i­ties on his per­sonal life.”

Thurs­day’s event marked the 417th meet­ing of the Sil­ver Slug­gers, who gather ev­ery Thurs­day at 10 a.m. in the li­brary. They are man­aged by Rich Marazzi, an Ansonia au­thor, Ma­jor League Base­ball rules con­sul­tant and for­mer coach, um­pire and ath­letic di­rec­tor.

The meet­ing marked Tosetti’s third ap­pear­ance.

Tosetti, who bears a strik­ing re­sem­blance to Ruth, traces her con­nec­tion to Juanita Jen­nings, a Cal­i­for­nia woman who bore a daugh­ter af­ter hav­ing an af­fair with Ruth in 1920. The daugh­ter, named Dorothy, was later adopted by Ruth and his first wife, He­len. When He­len died and Ruth re­mar­ried, she went to live with his new fam­ily.

Dorothy was mar­ried twice and had two sons and four daugh­ters, including Tosetti. She died as Dorothy Pirone in 1989 in Durham.

By now, mem­bers knew the rough out­lines of Ge­orge Her­man "Babe" Ruth Jr.’s life. They were down to the minu­tiae:

Was the Lee­wood exit on the Bronx River Park­way specif­i­cally cre­ated to give Ruth a short­cut to Yan­kee Sta­dium?

“No. That was a cow pass to get cows from one place to an­other,” she said. “But Babe used ... it a lot as a short­cut to the Sta­dium.”

What about his bat? Did he re­ally swing a 54-ounce bat?

“He used it from 1916-22 un­til he hurt his wrist and he came down two ounces,” she said ad­ding the bat was also 40 inches long.

She and her hus­band, An­drew, passed around a replica 36-inch long

54-ounce bat they had made up and a replica of the small base­ball glove Ruth used pa­trolling right field. The glove looks noth­ing like the bread bas­kets ballplay­ers use to­day.

And her fa­vorite Ruth movie?” “Sand­lot,” she said. The film stars James Earl Jones as a blind, for­mer Ne­gro League ballplayer pat­terned af­ter Hall of Famer Josh Gib­son, of­ten called the black Babe Ruth.

Around 2000, Tosetti said, she met Ne­gro League leg­end, Ted “Dou­ble Duty” Rad­cliffe at Base­ball’s Hall of Fame. Rad­cliffe knew Ruth from their barn­storm­ing days and called Tosetti over.

“He (Ruth) used to come to a lot of my games,” she said Rad­cliffe, then 97, told her. Black play­ers were ex­cluded from the ma­jor leagues un­til Jackie Robin­son broke the color bar­rier in

1947.

“He knew we be­longed in the ma­jor leagues,” Rad­cliffe said. “He (Ruth) spoke up.”

When asked about Jane Levy’s 2018 best­seller “The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Cre­ated,” Tosetti called the book “more of the same just struc­tured dif­fer­ently” from other bi­ogra­phies of the great ballplayer.

“I know he hit home runs. I know he set records,” Tosetti said. “I want to know how he felt af­ter hit­ting a home run, or call­ing the shot. As his grand­daugh­ter, I want to know more of the per­sonal stuff ... The only book that will an­swer that is the book I’m writ­ing.”

Tosetti and Wil­liam Maloney, a New York Univer­sity pro­fes­sor, plan a book called “Ruthian Re­gards — A Grand­daugh­ter’s Jour­ney.”

For the book, she spoke with Paul Hop­kins, of Deep River, be­fore he died. Hop­kins served up home run 59 in

1927 a day be­fore Babe hit num­ber 60 —a record that lasted un­til Roger Maris hit 61 in 1961.

On June 15, she’ll be at Yan­kee Sta­dium for the start of a three-day auc­tion of sev­eral of her grand­fa­ther’s mem­o­ra­bilia. Her col­lec­tion in­cludes pho­to­graphs, a pair of hunt­ing gloves and an urn from Ruth’s barn­storm­ing trip to Ja­pan.

“Our Mur­der­ers’ Row signed base­ball was stolen years ago,” she said. The signed ball was from the 1927 Yan­kees, con­sid­ered the great­est team ever.

Tosetti told sto­ries about Ruth’s love for chil­dren: the time the Chris­tian Broth­ers in the St. Mary’s In­dus­trial School for Boys where Ruth spent much of his young life won­dered why the stack of col­lars near his sewing ma­chine was small. Then they looked out the win­dow to see them fly­ing as the tails to kites.

Or how Ruth would buy sweets for kids and make good on prom­ises to hit homers for them.

So it was only fit­ting, she said, that a

13-year-old’s prom­ise years ago to help her con­vince a pres­i­dent to award Babe Ruth the Medal of Free­dom came true.

Tosetti said her per­sis­tence and the help of White House staffer Billy Maloney, the son of her co-au­thor, al­lowed her re­quest to end on Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s desk. It was signed in Novem­ber.

“Wouldn’t that be a Babe Ruth story?” she said. “A lit­tle boy promised it and he ended up get­ting it done.”

Tosetti is also pe­ti­tion­ing to have the Babe’s num­ber 3 re­tired from use by all Ma­jor League Base­ball teams, much like Jackie Robin­son’s num­ber 42.

Brian A. Pounds / Hearst Con­necti­cut Me­dia

Linda Ruth Tosetti of Durham, grand­daugh­ter of base­ball great Babe Ruth, meets with the Sil­ver Slug­gers base­ball fans at the Derby Pub­lic Li­brary on Thurs­day.

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