Spelunking around the Internet this evening doing research on another topic, I chanced across an old Heywood Broun column from a 1922 collection. Broun is best remembered today as a member of the Algonquin Round Table and an advocate for Sacco and Vanzetti, but he also wrote about sports and was a huge fan of Babe Ruth. He even wrote a novel about him. In this tongue-in-cheek piece from early in the 20s, Broun picks up the latest edition of Who's Who in America and finds no mention of Babe Ruth, coming no closer than, "Roth, Filibert, forestry expert; b. Wurttemberg, Germany, April 20, 1858." the author of "Forest Conditions in Wisconsin," "The Uses of Wood," and "Timber Physics." Broun was just a bit put out by this:
Without knowing the exact nature of "Timber Physics," we assume that the professor discusses the most efficient manner in which to bring about the greatest possible impact between any wooden substance and a given object. But mind you, he merely discusses it. If the professor chances to be wrong, even if he is wrong three times, nobody in the classroom is likely to poke a sudden finger high in the air and shout, "You're out!"
On the other hand, a miscalculation by Ruth in the uses of wood affects much more important matters. A strike-out on his part may bring about complete tragedy and the direst misfortune. There have been occasions, and we fear that there will still be occasions, when Ruth's bat will be the only thing which stands between us and the loss of the American League pennant. In times like these who cares about "Forest Conditions in Wisconsin"?
Coming to the final summing up for our side of the question at debate, we shall try to lift the whole affair above any mere Ruth versus Roth issue. It will be our endeavor to show that not only has Babe Ruth been a profound interest and influence in America, but that on the whole he has been a power for progress. Ruth has helped to make life a little more gallant. He has set before us an example of a man who tries each minute for all or nothing. When he is not knocking home runs he is generally striking out, and isn't there more glory in fanning in an effort to put the ball over the fence than in prolonging a little life by playing safe?
You know, 90 years later, there are still sportswriters who don't get that last idea. They'd rather see a batter tap into a double play than swing and miss.