BABE RUTH: From Hopeless to Fit

By Robert Goldman, Founder & Publisher of

Babe Ruth was only thirty years old in the Spring of 1925 and his body was failing him. That baseball season was one of the worst of his career. There was talk that he might be finished. The clear truth was that the Babe had failed his body, with too much of everything, too much food, alchohol and fast living. It all caught up with him that year; he collapsed, suffered a series of convulsions and was operated on for an intestinal problem. George Herman Ruth, the man, was a mess. With all the non-stop temptation and adoration coming his way, how did Babe Ruth get well? We'll get back to that shortly.

Fast forward eighty years, to our own day. There is an obesity epidemic in America. Too many Americans are overweight and out of shape. The most alarming of the research being done on this issue reveals the prevalence of obesity among children and teens has tripled in the last twenty five years. Our country is awash in fast food, soft drinks, too much sugar, processed foods and snacks, super-sized portions, an overload of stress and a lack of physical fitness and exercise. And too many adults, parents and leaders are failing to lead and serve as good role models for healthy living and moderation.

What is the answer to this serious problem? Fortunately, there are some real solutions and they are doable. For instance, just as there is a sustained and consistent effort to teach each school age child to read, there must be a similar, sustained commitment to teaching and experiencing a lifetime of healthy habits, including physical fitness and exercise, healthy nutrition and good food choices, along with techniques for stress reduction. From kindergarten through high school and beyond, it is time for this commitment to our children and ourselves. Fast food, soda and junk food have no place in our schools. Neither does fast food advertising. If children are provided a consistent and steady message of healthy living and if learning about how our bodies respond to habits of healthy living is both fun and rewarding, America will go far towards defeating this epidemic.

As for the adults who are overweight and in need of help, that brings us back to Babe Ruth and the year 1925. Babe did something that ballplayers of his time did not do, he found his way to a gymnasium in New York City (he was a Yankee, after all). Artie McGovern and his Madison Avenue gym specialized in working with the famous and wealthy. Artie stated that Ruth was 'as near to being a total loss as any patient I have ever had under my care.' He weighed 254 pounds, his digestive system was a wreck, his muscles were soft and flabby, the slightest exertion caused him to be short of breath and even his vision was affected. Artie preached discipline and a new way of living. Yes, you guessed it... exercise and a healthy diet. This is how Leigh Montville describes it in his excellent book on Ruth, 'The Big Bam' : "Diet was important. Artie cut out the beef and sweets. No medicines were allowed, because he wanted the Babe's body to do its own work. No snack foods. Breakfast featured poached eggs and one slice of toast. Lunch was a salad. The dinner entree was lamb or chicken served with two vegetables and another salad." Brisk walks, stationary biking, leg lifts and crunches, a rowing machine and other similar exercise were all part of Babe's new fitness regimen.

Babe Ruth, who had been on the verge of losing both his health and his baseball career, listened and followed this new regime. You can be sure that it was not easy for him. He was accustomed to doing whatever he wanted, whenever he wanted. In six weeks, his body's decline was halted and reversed, he lost 44 pounds. When training for the 1926 season began, Babe was tan, healthy and filled with optimism and everyone noticed. Babe spent every winter, for the rest of his playing career, training with Artie McGovern. He went on to be the record-breaking baseball legend that we know of and love today. Babe Ruth, thanks to his own desire and drive and the dedication of an excellent personal trainer, though that term would not emerge until years later, saved himself. You can too.

(Source of these facts about Babe Ruth: 'The Big Bam ' by Leigh Montville, published by Doubleday, as reported in Parade Magazine, May, 9, 2006)


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