America's Bradman: Babe Ruth of the New York Yankees hits a home run.

America's Bradman: Babe Ruth of the New York Yankees hits a home run. Photo: AP

Someone in a position to know told me the story 20 years ago. It was that when David Hill - not the ABC boss/author David Hill but the other, genius television sports producer, David Hill - left Channel Nine’s Wide World of Sport in the late 1980s to take over America’s Fox Sports, his first instruction to his baseball commentators, was simple:

“No more dead guys. No more endless chatter about Shoeless Joe Jackson, Lou Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio and Babe Ruth. I want you to talk about the current players. They are the ones we are building up, not the dead guys.”

And I get that. But just before the baseball circus hits Sydney next week, when “The Show” comes to town with the Los Angeles Dodgers playing the Arizona Diamondbacks in two matches at the SCG, allow me to tell - one more time for the road - the story of just one dead guy.

Babe Ruth! The “Sultan of Swat,” the New York Yankee to beat them all!

Baseball’s answer to Bradman, his stats are as phenomenal as the Don’s, a class above all those around him, and all players before and since. Appearing in no fewer than 10 World Series, he once scored 60 home runs in a season, on his way to hitting 714 overall - and all that in the days before steroids and the like made the boundary fences come so much closer.

The numbers don’t capture him though. It was the swagger. The panache. The self-belief. The fact that he was the original model for one who not only talked the talk, but also walked the walk, usually a stroll after hitting another home run.

Ages back I went through the Herald cuts files to put together a story on the best yarns about Ruth and this week I looked it out again.

See, back in the 1920s, the Babe was so famous, such a beloved legend, that when he married his sweetheart, a showgirl by the name of Claire - the only way to escape the crowds was to do it at 5am on the morning of June 23, 1929, and even then 1000 of them turned up outside the church on Long Island.

But look, seeing as you’re all here, the Babe might as well tell you, and he does, that that afternoon at Yankee Stadium, he will hit a home run in honour of his bride!

Batter up.

Late that afternoon, “bottom of the ninth” - as we baseball commentators love saying - the newly minted Mrs Babe is in the flag-draped tribune of honour, perhaps wondering if she was to be let down, as there had been no such honour done to their union.

Oh ye of little faith! For in his last time at bat, the Babe connects, and “the most perfect thing of its kind” is sent on its way - soaring, soaring, SOARING - to the far pavilions. A home run! As Ruth does his traditional lap of honour around the bases, slowly jogging, the journey between third and fourth base brings him face to face with his bride, at which point “pandemonium broke out in the stands as he swept off his cap, made a low bow, and continued on home.”

But to my favourite yarn of all - something that, in a poll taken of Associated Press sports editors in the US in 1950, was judged to be the second most dramatic sports event of the previous half-century.

By October 1932, see, more than two decades into his career, the Babe is starting to fade and in a World Series match between the Yankees and the Chicago Cubs the parochial home-town Chicago crowd can smell blood. The scores are locked 4-4 at the bottom of the ninth - did I mention we baseball writers love that phrase and position all our stories there? - and when the Colossus of Clout shapes up to the pitcher, they rouse themselves into a storm of jeering and hooting to wake the dead.

Too old!

Too fat!

Too slow!

So the story goes, the crowd are even joined in their abuse by some of the Chicago players, being untowardly disrespectful to the ageing American icon.

The Babe doesn’t blink. Not even when he misses the first pitch by a mile and the hoots rise to a crescendo.

And look now! What’s he doing?

Babe Ruth is raising a single admonitory finger, indicating they shouldn't get too excited yet because it is still only Strike One.

The pitcher throws again.

Stteeeeee-rike TWO!

More insults, including from the Chicago players!

This time Babe holds up two fingers.

With two wide pitches to follow, the whole game is in the balance, as the crowd goes berko in bloodlust for his downfall.

Now, now the Babe makes his move.

The clippings tell the story:

“With cold disdain, Babe Ruth pointed to a flagpole on the far edge of the ground. Everybody knew his meaning.”

They say it wasn’t a bad pitch. Inside, curving low, it had every right to expect to find a safe home in the catcher's mitt. Instead, after the Babe CONNECTS, it misses the said flag-pole by the barest whisker - the longest home run that had ever been hit in Chicago to that time.

Suck on that one, Chicago.

It is known as, “The only home run that was ever called in advance as to both time and place.”

When Ruth finally did become a dead guy - in 1948, after losing a battle with throat cancer - his open coffin was taken to Yankee Stadium where it lay in state in the middle of the baseball diamond for 24 hours, as no fewer than 100,000 New Yorkers filed past.

On ya, Babe. We’ll still talk about you, whatever David Hill says!