Barry Bonds' national reputation is such that he felt the need to produce his own TV series, "Bonds on Bonds" (on ESPN2), to tell his side of the story. This wasn't necessary in the old days when our home run hitters were genuine national heroes we could all admire.
Or was it? Page 2's Off Base researchers recently came across the following never-released Movietone newsreel from 1932: "Babe on Babe."
"BABE ON BABE"
[The newsreel opens with clips of BABE RUTH hitting home runs, posing with Charles Lindbergh, shaking hands with Charlie Chaplin and smoking cigars with President Hoover. We hear the BABE's voice over the clips.]
Retrospective: How the media viewed Ruth
BABE: First off, I gotta apologize for the title, but it wasn't my idea. Hollywood calls it alliteration or something. I call it false advertising. When I see a movie called "Babe on Babe" I'm expecting to see some racy flick that was banned by the Hays Code and stars Clara Bow and Paulette Goddard. But why any dame would choose another broad over the Sultan of Swat, I'll never know. They certainly don't when I'm on the road. Sweet Jesus, I remember one night ... What? Change the subject? All right, all right. Get off my back, already.
Anyway, I'm doing this talking picture to set the record straight and show people what the Babe is really like. I've had it up to here with the newspaper guys portraying me as a big-swinging, skirt-chasing, beer-guzzling, hard-living fatso. [Pause.] I am not fat. I'm just big-boned.
[The film cuts to LEFTY GOMEZ sitting in the Yankees dugout.]
LEFTY: Playing with the Bambino is like joining the circus. Only with more elephants. And beer instead of lemonade. And sexy dames spilling out of little cars instead of clowns. Anyway, it's a hell of a time. Lots of laughing. The Mahatma of Mash is a great practical joker. It's not well-known, but he's the guy who invented the classic "Pull My Finger" gag. Cracks me up every time.
INTERVIEWER: Does he really have his own black leather throne in the clubhouse?
LEFTY: Nah, that's just stuff the newspaper guys make up. He has a stool, just like everyone else. Only difference is, his stool needs four legs instead of three.
INTERVIEWER: But what about the stories that he sits off by himself in a corner of the clubhouse?
LEFTY: He does, but that's only because of that Pull My Finger routine. We give him plenty of space, if you know what I mean. What the hell does that guy eat, anyway?
[Clips of RUTH eating huge amounts of hot dogs and drinking vast mugs of beer and lemonade. Cut to RUTH sitting in a dark room at Yankee Stadium for an interview.]
INTERVIEWER: What's your response to people who say you need to eat and behave better because you're a role model for the kiddies?
BABE: Screw that. So what if I eat a lot? Since when is that a crime? Have you seen how many puny, malnourished kids there are? Trust me, 70, 80 years from now, they'll be thanking me when kids are fat and healthy. Geez, the next thing you know, someone will bitch about me endorsing Chesterfield cigarettes. Good Lord. What possible harm could there be in encouraging people to have a nice relaxing smoke? It helps keep the weight off, that's for sure, if they're so damn worried about that.
[The film cuts to various footage of boys and girls flocking around the BABE, who happily pats them on their heads and signs their baseballs. Then we see teenager JOHNNY SYLVESTER, sitting on a New York City stoop while a stickball game is played in the street.]
JOHNNY: What do I think of the Babe? Golly, I only owe my life to the Colossus of Clout. I was lying in a hospital on my death bed in October of 1926. Pa's HMO insurance didn't cover the type of surgery needed to save my life, so thank goodness the Bambino was there. Mr. Ruth visited my bedside and told me to pull his finger and then promised he would hit a home run for me in the World Series. And gee whiz -- he did. As soon as that home run flew into the stands, I felt ever so much better, and by the time the Yankees had won the World Series, I was out of the hospital. At least, I think so. I was in a coma the whole time so I don't remember, but that's the story the Yankees public relations people told all the sportswriters.
Anyway, I know I'll never forget how much I owe Babe, the swellest guy in the world. And when I grow up, I'm going to pay him back somehow. Maybe introduce him to my older sister.
[Cut back quickly to the BABE being interviewed.]
INTERVIEWER: Tell us about the time you visited the Sylvester child in bed.
BABE: As God is my witness, I swear she looked 18.
[The film cuts to shots of LOU GEHRIG and BABE with their arms around each other's shoulders and GEHRIG greeting BABE at the plate after a home run. We see GEHRIG being interviewed while leaning against the batting cage.]
GEHRIG: The columnists like to spread vicious gossip that me and George Ruth don't get along. Nothing could be further from the truth. George and I may not hang out together away from the park and I may not drink illegally with him in speakeasies until the wee hours of the morning and I may not approve of the way he sleeps around on the road and I may not care for how poorly he takes care of his body and winds up missing games -- and his incredible ego may drive me and everyone else on the club nuts -- but he's my teammate and I respect him and I'll never say anything bad about him no matter what a louse he is. I'll probably sit around and laugh about it all when I'm an old man. Well, maybe not laugh, but smile occasionally.
INTERVIEWER: But what about the time you guys were fighting and needed to be separated in the dugout?
GEHRIG: Oh, we didn't need to be separated because we were fighting. We needed to be separated because he pulled that stupid "Pull My Finger" routine again. I tell you, they don't make dugouts big enough.
[The film cuts back to RUTH being interviewed.]
INTERVIEWER: What will you do if the grand jury subpoenas you to testify about where you get all your booze?
BABE: That's just the newspaper guys stirring up s--- again. I haven't broken any baseball rules. The commissioner hasn't banned alcohol.
INTERVIEWER: Perhaps not, but it is a federally banned substance under the Volstead Act, which has prohibited the use of any beverage that is more than 0.05 percent alcohol by volume for virtually your entire career.
[There is an uncomfortable moment of silence.]
BABE: Well, who ever said I drink booze?
INTERVIEWER: What is in those beer bottles in your locker?
BABE: I dunno. Flaxseed oil?
INTERVIEWER: And how do you account for that bottle of scotch that was found in your car's glove compartment?
[Another awkward silence.]
BABE: Hey, I know. Pull my finger.
BOX SCORE LINE OF THE WEEK
Barry Bonds slammed a pitch into the upper deck at Philadelphia on Sunday night, but we've seen that sort of thing before (about 713 times). Much more impressive were his at-bats Friday and Saturday when the Bonds Shift allowed him to pull off these near impossible lines.
GIDP-Bonds 1 (Howard to Bell to Utley).
GIDP-Bonds 1 (Rollins to Bell to Howard).
If you're scoring at home, those are 4-5-3 and 6-5-3 double plays. Not easy to do, folks.
"Barry Bonds has hit his 713th home run and is now only two home runs away from passing Babe Ruth. Not only that, he's also now only two injections away from passing Jose Canseco."
Jim Caple is a senior writer for ESPN.com and the author of "The Devil Wears Pinstripes." You can order the book, reach Jim or read the new chapters of "24 College Avenue" at his recently redesigned Web site, jimcaple.com.