When the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N. Y., holds its annual induction weekend later this month, many visitors will make time to pause and view the memorabilia
of Babe Ruth, which continues to be a popular attraction a century after he joined the Boston Red Sox in 1914 as a 19-year-old
left-handed pitcher. But relics of the New York Yankee great’s
other game, golf, are on display in a quiet “Babe Ruth Room” at
a quiet country club, Leewood, in the Westchester County, N. Y.,
suburbs where the man who hit 714 career home runs was a
quiet honorary member from 1936 to 1941. During and after his
baseball career, he played golf there and everywhere.
“I played 365 rounds of golf last year,” he once exaggerated.
“Thank God for whoever invented golf. I’d be dead without it.”
When his Red Sox teammates introduced the Babe to golf
at Woodland GC in Newton, Mass., he found his other love.
As a Yankee legend he played throughout the New York area,
in Florida and California with pros Gene Sarazen and Johnny
Farrell, with Ty Cobb and other baseball rivals, politicians
and movie stars. He once (see above) teamed with Babe
Didrikson, the 1932 Olympian, against John ( The Mysterious)
Montague and noted amateur Sylvia Annenberg in a New
York exhibition that attracted a gallery of 12,000 that was so
rowdy the match had to be canceled after nine holes.
Leewood is believed to have been the Babe’s favorite course.
An 88-year-old member, Richard Colonna, a teenage caddie
when the Babe played, recently recalled, “He had to have a
single-digit handicap because he played in the club champion-
ship, but he lost to
Dr. Ralph Capalbo
three times, twice
in the semis and
once in the quar-
ters. You know
how big the Babe
was; Dr. Capalbo
was only 5-7. But
the Babe would
always come down
to talk to us kids in
the caddie yard.”
The Babe is
Leewood for two
holes. From the tee
of the 120-yard, downhill 11th hole, the left arm that set World
Series records as a Red Sox pitcher would throw his Spalding
Dot ball (with “Babe Ruth” imprinted on it) onto the green.
With the left-handed swing that slugged 15 World Series home
runs, he would drive the green of what is now the 312-yard 17th
hole. “Without modern technology,” said Leewood head golf
professional Dean Johnson.
In 1937 the Babe won the Towns Cup, a tournament honoring Eastchester, where Leewood is located, along with
Tuckahoe and Bronxville. His widow, Claire, later donated
the trophy to Cooperstown for display in the Babe’s original
Hall of Fame exhibit.
To honor its link to the Babe, Leewood hosts an annual
“Bambino Invitational” for local club pros and amateurs.
This year’s winner, Nick Beddow, the 2013 Long Island
PGA champion from Piping Rock, received the trophy from
the Babe’s granddaughter, Linda Ruth Tosetti of Durham,
Conn., in the Leewood men’s grill where the Bambino
stopped for a beer and a special steak after he played.
On the way to Leewood he would stop at a local butcher
shop for a steak or two that the club chef prepared for an
après-golf feast. But suffering from throat cancer before his
1948 death at age 53, he sometimes could swallow only a soft-
boiled egg. “One day,” the author Robert Creamer wrote in his
classic biography Babe: The Legend Comes to Life, “he looked at
the egg in his misery and said, ‘ To think of the steaks.’ ”
And to think of those tee shots at Leewood’s 312-yard 17th
hole. With a hickory shaft. N © B
B Y DAVE ANDERSON VOICES
The Babe’s golf obsession
THE BAMBINO INVITATIONAL CELEBRATES HALL OF FAMER RUTH’S PASSION FOR GOLF
Ruth at a 1937 match at
Fresh Meadow CC in Flushing, N. Y.