The oldest person I ever interviewed was Helge Ingstad, the famed Norwegian explorer who discovered the old Viking settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland. That put to rest Christopher Columbus discovering America since the Vikings had beat him by 500 years. Ingstad was 100 years old when I met up with him at his home just outside Oslo, and he would pass away the following year.
But of all the people I have ever interviewed the one who lived the longest was Julia Ruth Stevens, daughter of Babe Ruth. Julia, who passed away last week at the age of 102, was the last remaining member of the Ruth household.
She was a neat lady with a razor-sharp memory, keen sense of humor, and passion, especially where it concerned the man she called Daddy.
Portions of my lengthy interview with her when I spent an afternoon at her home are up on www.BabeRuthLegacy.com under Babe Ruth Legacy interviews. And as they say on CNN, it’s worth a listen.
Babe Ruth was a big part of Julia’s life until his death in 1948 when she was 32, and her insights into the kind of person he was are precious. She told me about the fun-loving, outgoing Babe who adored kids, who never had a chance to be one himself, and who just had this uncanny knack for doing everything he did … well.
He would wake her up at 5 a.m. when she was a young girl to join him for breakfast. Just the two of them. He taught her how to dance. He gave her his blood when she was in hospital and needed a transfusion. He gave her away when she got married. And, said Julia, “he would never fail to keep a promise.”
Maybe the funniest part of my time with her was when we were talking about the incredible value of Babe Ruth-signed baseballs, and the fact she didn’t possess any of those baseballs herself.
“The only signature I ever got was on a check,” she said, and then laughed.
You can tell a lot about people by how they laugh. Julia’s laugh was one that said she enjoyed life, she enjoyed people, and she certainly liked having fun.
I am so glad I got to meet her.