Summer is here and it is time to recall some trivial links between baseball, America’s national pastime, and the Presidency, America’s highest public position. Although they met only once, at a Stanford-USC football game in November 1933, there are stories—perhaps apocryphal—that link Herbert Hoover and Babe Ruth.
The first story involves a young boy seeking President Hoover’s autograph. Always a soft touch with children, Hoover happily complied. He was somewhat surprised when the boy then asked him for two more autographs. Hoover asked the boy why he wanted three signatures. The boy replied ‘I need three of your signatures to trade for one Babe Ruth.’
The next story, more widely known, involves a question put to Babe Ruth in 1930. At that time, Ruth was the highest-paid baseball player in America, earning $80,000 that year from the New York Yankees. When a reporter had the temerity to point out that Ruth was earning more than President Hoover, Ruth reportedly said: ‘What the hell does Hoover have to do with it? Besides I had a better year than he did.’
Both stories have the kernel of truth imbedded in the mythic retelling. I often wonder whether Hoover and Ruth discussed these tales while sitting next to each other watching the football game in 1933. We’ll never know as press coverage of the event was silent on this matter.