Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth
"Above all, get the fans a star whom they may worship," one baseball owner exhorted. By such a standard, Babe Ruth was a dream come true. Endowed with speed, strength, and unparalleled coordination, Ruth seemed one of the most complete athletes the sport had ever known. His public image was that of an ordinary man inflated to heroic proportions. He ate gluttonously, spent money lavishly, visited sick children, flouted every rule, wept in public, and promised to reform. His off-the-field activities—exhibition games, vaudeville tours, radio broadcasts, product endorsements—kept him in the public eye.

Caricaturists loved to depict the man one sportswriter called "our national exaggeration." Ruth's physical characteristics encouraged mockery. "The Babe's ankles are the envy of many a chorus gal," Ring Lardner wrote in a 1929 Collier's article accompanied by a full-length caricature. The same year, Paolo Garretto turned Ruth into a baseball to suggest how the great home-run king had come to embody the game.

George Herman (Babe) Ruth 1895–1948
Paolo Garretto 1903-1989
Collage with pastel, airbrushed gouache,
and lithographic crayon on board for
New York World, September 22, 1929
National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

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