Special, or Not Special 1948
Any year that includes a symbol of peace getting shot dead loses luster.
Like Martin Luther King in 1968.
Gandhi in 1948, got it during a walk to a non-violent prayer in New Delhi.
By a fellow Hindu.
While he was on a continuing hunger strike against internal violence after winning local rule in India against England.
Any year with an event that forces you find a new way to recoil is trouble.
Then there’s Babe Ruth.
PeeWee baseball in the mid-60’s was all about Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays. If you didn’t know anyone, you knew those guys.
But the Home Run King, the Sultan Of Swat, The Bambino, was still Babe Ruth.
More than one kid acted out a ‘Called Shot’ in practice, usually just before striking out.
In spite of the youthful Mantle and Mays, his was still the face of Major League Baseball.
Babe Ruth made our grandparents look young, which sort of made Little Leaguers in the mid-60’s even smaller.
But all that changed.
Peace since 1948 and Gandhi’s gun death
The best warning against gun violence comes from a veteran private investigator who doesn’t know I’m telling this story.
“Guns aren’t a part of what I do. I’ve got a concealed carry permit, but that’s not the point.
“If someone dies from gunshot when I’m involved, it won’t be my gun.
“Only twice in twenty five years did gun death even come up. Twice.
“See, my investigations concern finding things and delivering my findings to my boss. He’s a defense attorney. He reads my report and decides if it helps his case, or not.
“After I found incriminating evidence against a very bad man, my boss buried it to win the case.
“Afterward I saw the guy. He admitted what he’d done, and done wrong, so he wouldn’t get caught when he did it again.
“He thanked me for showing him how to be a a better criminal.
“If I’d had a gun right there I would’ve shot him. Probably a lot of times.”
You couldn’t find a nicer guy, a more disarming smile, and a stone cold killer given the right circumstances.
Babe Ruth and Gandhi changed public opinion in 1948
Too often the lasting images after someone passes come from their last years.
In that case Babe Ruth went out a large man, Gandhi small.
Both lives left an enduring question.
How did a frail little man with a spinning wheel defeat a world power without firing a shot in anger?
What you don’t see is the drive, the persistence, and the public clamor for the sort of change he led.
His wasn’t the first death from gun violence, but maybe the most one-sided with a skinny old man taking a bullet for his efforts.
The forgotten Bambino by 1948
Back in his heyday men wore suits and hats and smoked in their seats.
On his 1948 death not much had changed. His lasting image was a man with a big belly and skinny legs struggling to round the bases.
The thought of mid-60’s kids was he had to hit a home run to make it around the infield.
There was the young Mick burning down to first base in times unseen until Bo Jackson.
There was the Say Hey Kid running down long flies to the warning track.
And catching them over his shoulder.
Babe Ruth could never do that. At the same time, they never became Babe Ruth.
No one ever has, or ever will, eclipse Babe Ruth on the pantheon of sports legends.
More home runs? Okay, Barry. More money? Sure, A-Rod. More firmly secured in the firmament? No one.
Like Gandhi’s life of peaceful resistance, Babe Ruth found a was to stay relevant in a rapidly changing world.
Their differences are stark enough to make you think they have nothing in common, but that’s the writer’s magic, creating context.
The next time you panic for feeling so different than everyone and everything, check yourself.
Find common ground from a new angle.