November 8, 2019 — Babe Ruth, the premier slugger of the New York Yankees, the “Sultan of Swat,” arrived in North Dakota on this date in 1926 after a “fast ride” by car from Brainerd. Although his feet got cold along the way, the rest of him stayed warm in his “huge raccoon coat.” Standing six-foot-two and weighing 220 pounds, Mr. Ruth “looked like two men,” observed reporters, “stacked inside” one coat.
George Herman “Babe” Ruth had started a 12-week vaudeville tour in Minneapolis – and Fargo was his third stop.
Ruth’s Yankees had lost the World Series to the St. Louis Cardinals, four games to three, in October, and the Babe wanted to make some serious cash on a whistle-stop national tour. Ruth won the affection of North Dakotans by grinning his cheery grin and by putting on a great show.
The Babe was certainly distinctive, with his wide nose and large head, his thick chest and his stick-like legs. He was like a big kid, with an appetite for life and glory that few could claim. His name was almost a trademark, like Coca-Cola.
Ruth was in town for three days of vaudeville shows at the Fargo Theater. The Bambino had prepared his own act, which was said to be “exceptionally good.”
The show began with a mini-movie entitled “The House That Ruth Built,” showing Yankee Stadium and Ruth knocking out three homeruns in one game of the World Series. The film ended with a close-up of Ruth at bat when the Babe himself, “garbed in his New York Yankee uniform” clouted his way through a paper screen – “seemingly coming to life right from the moving picture.”
On his first day in North Dakota, the Yankee slugger presented a special matinee for 1,000 school children. “Kids, kids, kids,” Babe told a Forum reporter, “I had never seen so many in my life until I started west, and the more I see of them the better I like ‘em.”
The children loved the Babe. When the curtain went up, they gave a cheer as loud as a “World Series crowd.”
Ruth autographed six baseballs at every show and presented each one to a lucky youngster. The Babe also played to capacity crowds of adults. The vaudeville troupe also included the seven dancers in “Les Argentines” – a “snappy dance revue;” and Dawne June, billed as the “underwater girl,” whose bubbly act featured her “eating, drinking and singing under water.”
Ruth also visited St. John’s Hospital, shaking hands with every patient and all the staff. Altogether, Ruth put on ten shows in Fargo and left behind a bit of his magic—as one of America’s biggest celebrities of the Roaring Twenties.
“Dakota Datebook” is a radio series from Prairie Public in partnership with the State Historical Society of North Dakota and with funding from the North Dakota Humanities Council. See all the Dakota Datebooks at prairiepublic.org, subscribe to the “Dakota Datebook” podcast, or buy the Dakota Datebook book at shopprairiepublic.org.