Last week Truedessa wrote: “Can we expect another story from you soon? (Hopeful)” So this one you can blame on her.
A few years ago, the New Yorker magazine ran an article by a writer who was amazed to learn that his father had been the last person to interview the baseball star Babe Ruth.
As I read the article I thought, Really? I thought I was the last person to interview Babe Ruth.
To our blogger friends who aren’t American - and today to a huge number of those who are - Babe Ruth is one of those names out of the past that probably means little. But in the years after World War I, he was perhaps the most famous person in the United States. Baseball was the sport of that day, eagerly followed by both the intelligentsia and hoi polloi.
According to one scholar, "Ruth's playing was an exalted, uplifting experience that meant so much to the country. A Babe Ruth home run was an event unto itself, one that meant anything was possible."
A quick time-travel to a later year. As an announcer, young Berowne had made it from the provinces and had managed to get a job in New York radio. Not a prestigious, high-paying job, unless you call a buck an hour high-paying, but a job in NYC radio nevertheless.
To be in New York then; I loved it. As Wordsworth used to say, “Bliss was it in that dawn to be alive, but to be young was very heaven.”
But the fly in the liniment was my program director.
His name was Freud. That was his first name. Believe it or not – and I know this is going to be hard to believe – he thought that old Austrian dude’s first name was Freud so he wanted to be called Freud too.
I figured, why not; Sigmund wouldn’t mind.
He had a lot of energy: what I seek, he said, is excellence! Anyway, as program director he had a million ideas; about 00.09 percent of them sensible. The rest, as his subordinate, I had to try to carry out. He would suddenly come up with another suggestion. For example, he said to me one day: “Harpo Marx of the Marx Brothers is interested in promoting a certain charity; go up there and get an interview and we’ll run it on our morning show.”
I answered patiently, using the tone of someone telling a little kid that there really is no fat man in a red suit up at the North Pole. “Harpo,” I explicated, “doesn’t talk.”
“He doesn’t talk while doing a show,” Freud answered. “But I was told by a guy I know who has all the inside info that he’s eager to talk on the radio for his charity.”
So I subwayed up to Harpo, met at the door by his agent/manager, who regarded me as though I was a lump from the planet Gloorg or something when I explained that I was there for an interview with Harpo. “Harpo doesn’t talk!” he nearly shouted at me.
I reported back to Freud. It didn’t faze him; he already had another winning idea. His inside-info friend had told him about a fabulous chance for an interview with Babe Ruth.
Here my story turns somber. Ruth was in the hospital and he was dying, very sick with throat cancer. They wanted no reporters, no photographers, no press. And here was I, in all my ignorance and inexperience, somewhat nervous, heading uptown to do an interview.
Freud had learned, by one of his mysterious sources, that the Babe would be sort of carried to the opening of the movie “The Babe Ruth Story,” which was just opening, so that he’d be able to see a bit of it, and then be taken back to the hospital. I was waiting for him there in the lobby.
Long story short, I asked him a question. The two men supporting him glared at me malevolently. He answered. At least he tried. It may be he said something, but I was puzzled; there were no words I could understand, just strange noises.
I suddenly realized that what I was doing was something rather demeaning and very inappropriate. I stopped suddenly and left.
Freud was so thrilled that our little morning show would be able to feature Babe Ruth that he insisted he wanted to run the “interview” as recorded. I insisted there was no interview. Wrong, he said, I had asked a question and the Babe answered; that’s an interview. The fact that you couldn’t understand any of his words - there were just rather horrible gargling sounds – didn’t mean much to Freud.
However, his boss managed to talk him out of it. My taped interview with Babe Ruth never made it to air. I’m happy to say.