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He Lost His Job, but He Served the Legend Well

MORNING BRIEFING

April 12, 1992|RANDY HARVEY

"The Babe," a new movie about Babe Ruth, opens Friday. It stars John Goodman ("King Ralph"), who was born four years after Ruth died in 1948. But the man who played the title role in "The Babe Ruth Story," the original movie about the legendary home run hitter, not only knew Ruth but worshiped him.

So much so that he almost killed him.

When he was 15 in 1922, William Bendix was a batboy for the New York Giants, who shared the Polo Grounds with Ruth's Yankees. Ruth took to Bendix, who became his hero's gofer. He shined Ruth's shoes, ran errands for him and delivered him food. A lot of food.

According to "Believe It Or Else" by Bruce Nash and Allan Zullo, Bendix regularly brought Ruth his pregame meal of a dozen hot dogs and two quarts of soda. After one game, Ruth collapsed with stomach pains and was rushed to the hospital. Some newspaper reports had him near death, although it turned out he was suffering from severe indigestion.

The Yankees investigated, discovered the cause of the stomachache and blamed the batboy.

The Giants fired Bendix.

Add Babe: For the Boston Globe, novelist Brendan Boyd writes: "Everything about Ruth was almost cartoonishly big. He was 6 feet 2 inches tall with a dilating gut that made his sinewy legs look bird-like by comparison. His enormous head and broad face dominated every photograph he ever appeared in, making him look like an extraterrestrial parade float air-brushed in as an afterthought.

"His specialty, the home run, is baseball's biggest statement. And Babe hit so many, so far, that he single-handedly transformed the homer from a sometime event that seemed to embarrass true baseball fans into the game's permanent signature."

Trivia time: The Yankees adopted their traditional pinstripes to disguise Ruth's girth. True or false?

Imitating art: In "The Cutting Edge," a movie about a figure skater and an ice hockey player who form an unlikely pairs team that jumps, spins and twists around all obstacles to earn a berth in the Olympics, Sharon Carz and John Denton double on the ice for actors Moira Kelly and D.B. Sweeney.

Carz and Denton, competitive pairs skaters who train in Southern California, were so compatible during filming that they formed a partnership.

A happy ending, however, has yet to be written. In this year's national championships, their first together, they finished ninth.

Add movies: In his reviews of "The Cutting Edge" and another sports-related film, "White Men Can't Jump," Sports Illustrated's Steve Wulf points out that the best scene in either movie is one from "White Men" that involves the game show "Jeopardy!"

"The whole scene, complete with Alex Trebek, energizes the movie even more than the basketball does," he writes.

In the scene, one of the movie's stars, Rosie Perez, fulfills her lifelong dream of appearing on the show. Although she is lost in the SPORTS category, identifying Babe Ruth as the NBA's all-time leading rebounder, she blitzes through the rest of the board to beat the other contestants, including a rocket scientist from Pasadena.

Answer: The rocket scientist is played by an L.A. Times sports columnist.

Question: Who is Allan Malamud?

Trivia answer: That has become one of baseball's enduring myths, but it's false. The Yankees began wearing pinstripes in 1912, eight years before Ruth joined the team.

Quotebook: Ping Bodie, on roommate Babe Ruth's all-night excursions: "I don't room with him; I room with his suitcase."

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