Never let the facts get in the way of a biopic. I’m surprised Babe Ruth wasn’t put up for sainthood after watching this version of his life. I did enjoy William Bendix work his way through this sanitized revision of history.
It starts in 1906 Baltimore as a young George Ruth has to work in his father’s saloon. He’s run away from St.Mary’s School twice but now he takes the opportunity to go back thanks to Brother Matthais (Charles Bickford).
The years go by and now it’s hard for George (William Bendix) to leave. Matthais introduces him to Jack Dunn (William “Fred Mertz” Frawley), manager of the Baltimore Orioles. Dunn says they should do alright with a Babe likes this and the name stuck.
Babe has great success as a pitcher and is then sold to the Red Sox. The success continues until an opposing manager spots the way he telegraphs his pitches. Now he’s on a losing streak and doesn’t know why. In a bar a chorus girl named Claire Hodgson (Claire Trevor) tells him what he’s doing wrong and the losing streak ends. Now he’s obsessed with finding her.
At spring training in Tampa the Babe plays left field and starts knocking them out of the park. He even manages to heal an invalid child just by saying hello. (No, I’m not making that up). Success follows success and then he’s sold to the then hapless Yankees for a half million bucks.
One day at the field he signs a ball for a little boy and his dog Pee Wee. During batting practice the dog gets loose and the Babe crowns him. He rushes him and the boy to a nearby hospital. So what if it’s not an animal hospital. He’s the Babe. The doctors operate and Pee Wee will be chasing cats again real soon. The good deed causes him to miss the game. Manager Miller Huggins fines him five grand and suspends him from playing.
Babe, being close to a Saint, keeps helping kids. He goes to a children’s hospital on Christmas Eve dressed as Santa,. Too bad he’s drunk. Claire gets him out of there before he can get inside.
Suspension is over. He gets the news when two gamblers who want him to alter his playing for them show him a paper with the headline. He repays them by knocking them out and ends up in jail for a night and the paper’s continue to call him The Bad Boy Of Baseball after slugging what they said were two innocent victims.
Back in the game he slugs sixty homers and the Yanks are winning pennants and World Series. The movie follows the triumphs and tragedies including that called center field shot for little Johnny.
The movie sinks under an overdose of pulled heartstrings loaded with corn and syrup. Just when you think they couldn’t go any further with the hearts and flowers….they do. Babe was still around so maybe the film makers didn’t want to insult him by being accurate.