Babe and Billy
March 8, 2018
“Hey, Kid, get out here,” Babe says, inhaling cold air and exhaling hard. “This place is our Yankee Stadium.”
A wiry man of medium height appears and says, “How about you quit calling me Kid.”
“I’ll be happy to, soon as I learn your name.”
“How long you need? I’ve been here thirty years.”
“I’ve been here seventy and can’t remember all my neighbors,” says Babe.
“I’m the only one who’s a Yankee and World Series hero except you.”
“I know all that, Kid. But what’s your name?”
“Yeah, I’ve called you that many times. I just forgot this morning.”
“Don’t forget again.”
Babe throws Billy his glove and a ball and tosses a bat to his right. “It’s the first day of spring training.”
“There won’t be any intra-squad game today, thanks to you.”
“Listen,” says Babe, “I may be suspended now and again but never for more than a few weeks. They fire you all the time for fighting.”
“I haven’t been fighting anybody,” says Billy. “You know the rules around here. No drinking or smoking.”
“I hadn’t done either for months.”
“I haven’t done any in longer than that.”
“Not that they’ve seen.” Babe points to the green horizon. “Get out there about three hundred feet and let me hit you some flies.”
Billy dashes around large statues and hurdles the small ones. “Ready.”
Left hand gripping his bat a few inches above the handle, Babe tosses the ball up with his right and grabs the handle before he smashes a fly that keeps climbing and carrying and sails at least a hundred feet over Billy’s head.
“Too bad you don’t have a relay man,” Babe shouts.
Billy chases a ball that rolls another hundred feet and then has to dash a hundred yards back before he can throw the ball to Babe. “Wish I had your power.”
“So does every kid in the country. Plenty in the Caribbean and Asia, too.”
“But not too many in Europe,” says Billy.
“That’s why I don’t go there much.”
After launching ten or so rockets straightaway Babe starts pulling the ball to his right, hitting it just as far, and swatting it almost as far to his left. “Those would all be home runs, Billy.”
Breathing hard, Billy jogs the ball back to Babe and says, “Okay, big guy, your turn to run.”
“I’m a lot better fielder than most people know.”
Billy starts hitting line drives, sending Babe swerving between statues to cut off the hits and hold imaginary runners to singles.
“That’s no fun,” says Babe. “Put the ball in the air.”
“Ty Cobb and I don’t like to hit the ball where people can catch it.”
“We’re just having fun, Billy.”
Several times they trade off hitting and then they each put on a glove and play catch. Babe, once a great pitcher, starts throwing harder and harder and Billy says, “Hold off on the heat unless you got a catcher’s mitt.”
“I ordered one years ago but it still hasn’t come.”
“That’s because the boss doesn’t want you pitching anymore.”
“Guess I was born to slug.”
“And we were both born for booze and broads, Babe.”
“I think I can get some in here tonight.”
“You know we never get away with anything here,” Billy says.
With his left hand Babe pounds the ball in his glove. “Yeah, and after a while I guess we really didn’t get away with much out there.”
Notes: Visit Babe Ruth and Billy Martin at the Gate of Heaven Cemetery in Mt. Pleasant, New York. In 1948 Babe died at age fifty-three of throat cancer after years of heavy smoking and drinking. Billy passed away at sixty-one in 1989. He was drunk and passed out in the passenger’s seat of his pickup truck when an intoxicated friend drove off the ice-covered road, within sight of Billy’s home, near Binghampton, New York shortly after dark on Christmas Day.