Player As Celebrity: The Babe
“Play Ball, You All”: Baseball’s Turn Down Tin Pan Alley by Katherine Walden is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
Although songs about Babe Ruth do relate to other songs written about specific baseball players, the sheer number of songs written for and about Ruth as well as his place within baseball history and American popular culture requires mention. Although baseball’s popularity grew across the United States in the decades following the Civil War, only in the early 1900s did popular culture mediums and technologies develop to the point that having a “national pastime” was possible. Ruth’s playing style of home run hitting and dominant batting and hitting record streaks during the 1920s and 30s was one reason for his popularity within New York, Boston, and beyond. Song titles like “Come On, Babe,” “Oh! You—Babe Ruth,” “Batterin’ Babe, Look At Him Now,” and “Babe: He is a Home Run Guy” all pay homage to Ruth’s playing style that drove his on-field success and popularity. Lyrics in these songs most often communicate a fan perspective about the excitement of seeing Ruth play and his unique slugging hitting style, which became wildly popular with baseball fans during this period. Although the language used to describe Ruth is
However, much of Ruth’s celebrity was tied to his work outside of baseball with American media and entertainment. In addition to staring in a number of films, from the 1920 Headin’ Home to the 1942 Pride of the Yankees featuring Gary Cooper. The larger-than-life persona ascribed to Ruth is also reflected in the group of song titles that include “Our Bambino” and “Safe At Home.” In addition to cover art that presents Ruth as a mythic, imagined, or heroic figure, lyrics in these titles give less attention to Ruth’s on-field performance and instead focus more on his off-field character and charismatic personality. More so than other songs about particular players, songs about Ruth only give marginal attention to the teams he played for. His tenure with the Yankees and Red Sox is briefly mentioned in some titles, but lengthy discussions about his achievements as part of a team or even connections with other members of these teams is marginal. Although baseball’s emergence as the national pastime within American popular culture was the result of a number of factors, Ruth’s emergence as the game’s first celebrity was an undeniable contribution to the game’s popularity and romanticized cultural significance