Category Archives: Series

Celebrity Babe of the Month: June

Sorry for the long hiatus; but let’s be honest, did any of you really notice?

And now, for the conclusion of our Celebrity Babe of the Month series…

Babe the Gallant Pig

One of four dozen piglets who played Babe in the 1995 movie

One of four dozen piglets who played Babe in the 1995 movie

Real name: Babe (known in sheepdog trials as Pig)

Babe-ification story:

When Farmer Hogget wins an infant pig at a fair and brings it back to the farm, the dog who takes care of the piglet asks its name. It responds that its mother called all her children Babe.

An illustration by Mary Rayner from the original book

An illustration by Mary Rayner from the original book

Celebrification story:

Mary Rayner illustration

Mary Rayner illustration

Just an orphan pig on a farm, Babe unknowingly avoids becoming Christmas dinner by proving himself a skilled herder of the other farm animals. He has learned from Fly, the friendly sheepdog who adopts the piglet as her own, but he eventually becomes the most efficient herder on the farm when he comes up with the idea to ask the sheep nicely if they wouldn’t mind going into the pen. Babe even saves the sheep from rustlers.

Farmer Hogget notices the pig’s uncanny talents and decides to enter him into the county sheep dog trials. They begin training, interrupted only by the brief suspicion that Babe has killed a sheep (turns out it was the only sheep he wasn’t able to save from wild dogs). Babe enters the trials armed with a password given to him by the farm sheep that will allow him to talk to the unfamiliar sheep he is herding in the competition. He does so well that the judges award him and Farmer Hogget the highest possible score.

Meta-celebrification story:

Babe book cover   Babe movie poster

In 1983, children’s author Dick King-Smith penned The Sheep-Pig (Babe, the Gallant Pig in the U.S.). In 1995, the book was turned into a movie called Babe, which was nominated for seven Oscars, including Best Picture. It won the Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy) and did extremely well at the box office, solidifying Babe’s place in history and canonizing Farmer Hogget’s sweet post-competition praise: “That’ll do, Pig. That’ll do.”

That'll do, Pig. That'll do.

That’ll do, Pig. That’ll do.

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Celebrity Babe of the Month: February

After a one-month babe-of-the-month hiatus, we’re back with…

Babe Ruth

(Were you concerned I might forget about him?)

I'd like to see the guy on the mound about to pitch three baseballs at once.

I’d like to see the guy on the mound about to pitch three baseballs at once.

Real Name: George Herman Ruth

Babe-ification story:

Jack Dunn, who recruited 19-year old George for the Baltimore Orioles, had to become George’s legal guardian in order for the contract to be valid.  The Orioles players started calling George “Jack’s newest babe,” and the name stuck.

Celebrification story:

In Which a Legendary Baseballer is Born, but Nobody is All That Impressed Yet Because He’s Not Actually Very Well-Behaved as a Child

Babe’s story begins in Baltimore in 1895. Of George and Kate Ruth’s eight children, Babe  (then George, Jr.) and his sister Mamie were the only ones who survived. The Ruths worked long hours, leaving George, Jr., and Mamie without adult supervision much of the time. George, Jr., proved to be a bit of a hooligan, so when he was 7, his parents opted to provide him with a more structured environment by sending him to St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys. This is where George, Jr., shaped up and fell head over heels for baseball.

George Herman Ruth, back left corner, with his St. Mary's teammates

George, Jr., back left corner, with his St. Mary’s teammates

In Which a Legend is (Nick)Named

Brother Matthias, one of the monks at St. Mary’s, took George, Jr., under his wing. He began working with him on baseball skills like hitting and fielding. Eventually Brother Matthias realized George, Jr.’s exceptional skill and invited Jack Dunn, manager of the Baltimore Orioles, to come watch George play. After watching the boy for less than an hour, Jack Dunn offered him a contract to play with the Orioles. He became George’s legal guardian so the contract could be completed, and a legend was born.

Babe Ruth with the Orioles

Babe Ruth with the Orioles

In Which a Legend Reaches the Adolescence of His Legend-ness

Babe played well for the Orioles, leading the Boston Red Sox to buy him later that year. He pitched for the Red Sox for a few games but there wasn’t space on their roster for him, so he landed on their minor league team, the Providence Grays. The next year he was back on the Sox. Though he didn’t spend much time at the plate, he spent enough to prove himself. By 1918 he was playing daily, and in the 1919 season he hit a record 29 home runs.

Babe becomes a Red Sox. (Er...a red sock?)

Babe becomes a Red Sox. (Er…a red sock?)

In Which a Legend Becomes…a Legend*

The 1919 season was Babe’s last with the Sox; that year, he was sold to the New York Yankees. I’ll spare you the stats, which you can find elsewhere; but in the lovely phrasing of baberuth.com’s biography, Yankee Babe proceeded with “an assault on baseball’s most hallowed records.” Basically he hit a frickin’ cornucopia of home runs. (I will include one blinding stat that reminds me of another Babe we’ve celebrated: in 1920, Ruth’s home run count not only tripled the highest number hit by any other individual player, but also exceeded the number hit by any whole team.) The Yankees, a team that hadn’t won any titles before Babe, went on to capture seven pennants and four World Series titles with him at the helm. His career home run record – 714 – wasn’t broken until 1974 when Hank Aaron hit his 715th.

babe ruth hitting action

Ruth knocks a moon shot.

*I was going to call this section “A Legend is Born,” but since I already had Babe the human (in contrast to Babe the legend) being born up there in the first section, I thought it might be confusing. Then I was going to call it “A Legend is Born Again,” but I didn’t want to imply that I was adding to Babe’s biography a previously unknown conversion to evangelical Christian belief. Thus concludes the brief glimpse into the meta-framework of an EWR post.

Nat Fein's Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of Ruth

Nat Fein’s Pulitzer Prize-winning photo of Ruth

In Which a Legend Outlives Death, in the Way We Typically Expect Legends to Do

As his skills eventually began to dwindle, Babe spent a short stint playing for and managing the Boston Braves.

"Well, boys...this seems awkward..."

“Well, boys…this seems awkward…”

In 1946, he was diagnosed with a malignant tumor in his neck. Two years later, on August 16, 1948, Babe died of cancer, just months after the Yankees had retired his jersey number (3). His body spent two days at Yankee Stadium for viewing, during which almost 80,000 people came to pay their respects. He is still one of the most recognizable figures in sports and is widely regarded as one of the best athletes who ever lived.

babe ruth baseball card

Ruth and Gehrig, a pair of Murderers

Ruth and Gehrig, a pair of Murderers

More Babe Stuff

  • The Yankees moved to a new stadium in 1923; it was known as “The House that Ruth Built.”
  • Zillions of baseball fans still consider the 1927 Yankees to be the greatest team in the history of baseball.
  • Nicknames (besides Babe, of course) include Jidge (bastardization of George), the Sultan of Swat, the Bambino or the Great Bambino (bambino is Italian for baby), and the Colossus of Clout. (Please refer to The Sandlot for a spirited listing of nicknames.)
  • Babe Ruth was one of the first five inductees into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
  • The first six hitters in the 1927 Yankees lineup, which included Babe as well as Lou Gehrig, were referred to as “Murderers’ Row.”
  • Babe was married twice and had two adopted daughters, Dorothy (adopted with his first wife, Helen) and Julia (biological daughter of his second wife, Claire).
  • There is no candy bar named after Babe Ruth. (Baby Ruth is named after Grover Cleveland’s daughter.)
  • Babe was a lefty.
babe ruth puffed wheat

Cha-CHING!

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Celebrity Babe of the Month: December

Congratulations, you survived the end of the world!

BUT. Survival skills are still essential for…er, survival. If you ever find yourself in a situation requiring you to obtain your own food from the wild, there’s a man you need to know about.

Babe Winkelman

Al...? Al Borland? No, that's Babe Winkelman, king of the outdoors.

Al…? Al Borland? No, that’s Babe Winkelman, king of the outdoors.

Real Name: None ‘a ya business (Seriously, the man deserves his privacy.)

(not Babe Winkelman)

(not Babe Winkelman)

Babe-ification Story:

When The-child-who-would-be-known-as-Babe was a year and a half, his father bestowed upon him his first baseball and bat. He dragged them around with him everywhere he went and played with them constantly, so his dad started calling him Babe (after the Great Bambino, of course).

For a guy who’s 6’3” and 250 pounds, a nickname like Babe works out just fine. But growing up, Babe had to issue a few forceful reminders that he was not, in fact, named after Baby Huey

Celebrification Story:

Babe Branches Out

Although he started out constructing buildings, Babe’s heart was always in the outdoors. Growing up on a farm, he was in constant contact with nature and taught himself to fish. Six years after starting the Winkelman Building Corporation with his father, he sold his shares in the company and pursued a career in two seemingly disparate media: television, and the wild.

winkelman fish

Hey! Good Fishing!

Babe Winkelman Productions formed in the early 1970s, and by 1980 he had started hosting “Good Fishing” – tagline: “Until then…hey! Good fishing!”  The show was picked up for syndication in ‘85 and is still America’s most-washed fishing show. He also brought hunting back to television in the late ‘80s with “Outdoor Secrets” – tagline: “Master the patterns of nature.”

That deer’s like, “Oh. Em. Gee. Seriously? Just after being shot? Do. Not. Tag me. In that photo.”

The Patterns of Nature

Babe credits his outdoor prowess (and, consequently, his television success) to his early discovery that wildlife operates in predictable cause-and-effect patterns. His mastery of the patterns of human nature may be a bit more dubious; he’s currently on marriage #3 (although with five daughters, it seems like by now he ought to be pretty good at predicting the cause-and-effect patterns of women).

More Babe Stuff:

  • Babe’s television shows are a family affair. Some of his daughters have hunted with him, his wife Kris does a cooking segment, and his brother wrote and performed the original theme song for “Outdoor Secrets.”
  • The Winkelmans live on 260+ acres of woodland in Minnesota, where Babe has established a bird sanctuary and is working on a native tallgrass prairie.
  • Watch Babe wrestle a massive sturgeon on an episode of “Good Fishing.”
Master of camouflage.Kidding. This is actually Babe with one of the thousands of trees he has planted.

Master of camouflage!
Kidding. This is actually Babe with one of the thousands of trees he has planted.

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Celebrity Babe of the Month: November

Babe the Blue Ox

Real Name: Babe the Blue Ox

Babe-ification story:

It was so cold that winter that the snow had turned blue (The Winter of the Blue Snow, they called it). Paul Bunyan was taking a walk in the woods when he found a baby ox nearly frozen. Even after he warmed it up, the critter stayed as blue as the snow. Paul fell for that baby ox and decided to take care of it forever…thus, Babe the Blue Ox.

Celebrification story:

Being raised in Paul’s camp, Babe grew to epic (literally) proportions. Though he certainly made a name for himself around the camp, it wasn’t until he started helping out with Paul’s logging jobs that his fame grew to match his size.

For Babe’s first truly incredible feat, Paul hitched him to the crooked logging roads and had him tug until he’d pulled them tight, creating a straight shot to the lumberyards and leaving enough leftover road to lay some down into new timberland.

Meta-Celebrification story:

There are as many stories about Babe the Blue Ox and Paul Bunyan as there are people to tell them.

Although there is speculation that the seeds of the legend may have been sown during Canada’s Papineau Rebellion, most sources agree that the stories first circulated orally in logging camps starting around the 1880s. James McGillivray is credited with the tales’ transition into print, publishing selections in a Michigan newspaper in 1906 and four years later expanding them in a long rhyming story called “The Round River Drive” (Babe appears in TRRD, but not by name).

But Paul and Babe didn’t hit the big time until 1914, when William Laughead (Loghead?) of the Red River Lumber Company commandeered them for a new line of work: advertising.

The logging industry had fallen on hard times, and Paul and Babe were the icons that could give it a lift. Featuring stories and illustrations of the lumberjack and his ox, Laughead’s Red River Lumber pamphlets reached beyond industry insiders and made their way to a wide readership. Laughead was also responsible for saddling the ox with a permanent moniker. By 1922, Paul and Babe were household names.

To naysayers and those who claim Paul and Babe are “fakelore,” website lumberwoods.com has this answer, a quote from Carl Sandburg’s The People, Yes:

Who made Paul Bunyan, who gave him birth as a myth, who joked him into life as a the Master Lumberjack, who fashioned him forth as an apparition easing the hours of men amid axes and trees, saws and lumber? The people, the bookless people, they made Paul and had him alive long before he got into the books for those who read. He grew up in shanties, around the hot stoves of winter, among socks and mittens drying, in the smell of tobacco smoke and the roar of laughter mocking the outside weather. And some of Paul came overseas in wooden bunks below decks in sailing vessels. And some of Paul is old as the hills, young as the alphabet.

Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox in Bemidji, Minnesota

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Celebrity Babe of the Month: October

Babe Didrikson Zaharias

Real Name: Mildred Ella Didriksen

Babe-ification story:

As the 6th of 7 children, she was called “Baby” as an infant. By the time #7 came along, the neighborhood boys had already adjusted Mildred’s nickname to Babe (after Babe Ruth) because she hit so many home runs in their sandlot baseball games.

Celebrification story:

The Early Years

During high school, Babe was recruited by Employers Casualty Insurance Company’s sports manager Colonel Melvin J. McCombs to play basketball for the company’s women’s team, the Golden Cyclones. After a smashing season, the Golden Cyclones also competed in swimming, baseball, and tennis. Then McCombs had Babe compete in the AAU National Championship track meet…as a one-woman team.

The One-Woman Team

She won. At 21 years old, she competed in eight of the meet’s ten events and singlehandedly outscored the 2nd place team (which had over 20 members) 30 to 22. She placed first in five events and tied for first in another. In the process, she broke four world records (three of which belonged to her already) and qualified for the 1932 Olympics.

The 1932 Olympics

Babe competed in three events and medaled in all of them. In the javelin throw and the 80-meter hurdles, she took gold and broke (her own) world records. In the high jump, she and an opponent cleared the same height in a jump off but Babe was awarded the silver medal due to controversy about the legality of her form. (The Fosbury flop was still more than three decades in the future.) Coming off her unprecedented victories in track and field, she seemed unstoppable…until it was time to go pro.

Going Pro

Babe floundered after making the decision to earn money as an athlete. She dabbled in show business, spending a week as the star of a vaudeville act and participating in exhibition games in billiards, basketball, and baseball. But by the end of 1934, she had been taking lessons and keeping a strenuous training schedule, and she was ready to compete in the next sport…

The Next Sport

…golf. She entered and won her first tournament in Fort Worth, Texas. Babe went on to win 82 golf tournaments in her career, including 17 amateur women’s tournaments in a row (which hasn’t been done since). By 1950 she had won every golf title available to women at the time. She is now remembered primarily for her career on the green.

More Babe Stuff

  • Babe met professional wrestler George Zaharias when they were partnered for a golf tournament and married him in 1938. Although their marriage was not always happy, they remained loyal to one another.
  • When a friend introduced her to teenage golfer Betty Dodd, the two became fast friends (often arousing George’s jealousy) for the rest of Babe’s life. Dodd even lived with the Zahariases for a while.
  • She was instrumental in founding the Ladies PGA.
  • Babe’s confidence was as wide as her native Texas, and her verbal swagger matched it. She was known to shout to competitors before a match, “Okay, Babe’s here! Now who’s gonna finish second?”
  • She received the Associated Press’s Woman Athlete of the Year award six times, a record still unmatched today.
  • She was proficient on the harmonica, which she played on stage in her one week of vaudeville and later with Betty Dodd, who sang and played guitar.
  • In 1953 she underwent surgery for colon cancer. She went on to win the U.S. Women’s Open shortly thereafter. Her cancer had spread to her lymph nodes, but that information was kept from her until it became evident. She was in and out of the hospital during her last year of life and finally succumbed in 1956 at age 45.

Babe’s legacy includes more than athletic accomplishments: she spent much of her career bucking the notion that women did not belong in sports. Up until a year before she competed in the Olympics, the inclusion of women’s sports in the Games was still a subject of heated debate. Later, when Babe was touring with a men’s baseball team, newspaper columnist Joe Williams wrote of her, “It would be much better if she and her ilk stayed home, got themselves prettied up and waited for the phone to ring.” But sportswriter and fan Grantland Rice lauded Babe as “the most flawless section of muscle harmony, of complete mental and physical coordination the world of sport has ever known.” By her unflagging pursuit of her own ambitious athletic goals, Babe helped to open up the world of professional sports for future women athletes.

Note: I highly recommend Russell Freedman’s Babe Didrikson Zaharias: The Making of a Champion, which was my principal source for this post. I found the chapter about Babe as a one-woman track team especially entertaining.

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