Babe Ruth was in bad shape.
There were surgeries and suspensions, lawsuits and tax issues.
He was fined by the New York Yankees for late night carousing and divorced his wife Helen, which cost him $100,000, and their 125 acre ranch in Sudbury MA.
But baseball needed him, as Dan Taylor explains in “Baseball at the Abyss – The Scandals of 1926, Babe Ruth, and the Unlikely Savior Who Rescued a Tarnished Game” (Rowman & Littlefield).
The game, reeling from the retirement of the legendary Ty Cobb following allegations of misspelling in 1926, needed a hero – but the ‘Bambino’ wasn’t in the best shape to shoulder the burden.
His decadent lifestyle had caught up with him, his weight rising to over 250 pounds.
Not even the Yankees’ famous pinstripe jersey could hide its size.
The press, meanwhile, described him as a “bay window” or “toothpicks on a piano”.
Enter Christy Walsh.
As the first sports agent, Walsh knew that Ruth’s enduring popularity was key not only to their prosperity, but to that of baseball as well.
“Ruth was and still is a phenomenon,” Taylor tells The Post.
“Fans today don’t understand how good he was and how his tremendous talent made him such an important figure — not just to baseball, but to American culture.”
Under Walsh, Ruth was beaten into form.
He enlisted Artie McGovern, a personal trainer and former Hells’ Kitchen club fighter, to put Ruth to the test.
Even when Ruth went to Hollywood for film work, McGovern accompanied him, dragged him out of bed for a 6 a.m. run and set up a studio gym for boxing and strength training.
McGovern also took control of his diet.
The half-dozen hot dogs, four steaks, and 12 cups of coffee he drank each day went out and were replaced with chicken or fish and water.
There was no booze or sugar, desserts or fried food.
Within months, Ruth’s waist shrunk by more than eight inches and his weight dropped by 40 pounds. “Ball clubs and players are putting a lot into strength and conditioning these days to improve their skills,” adds Taylor. “Who would have thought it all came from Babe Ruth?”
The difference with Ruth’s game was huge.
After washing up at age 30, in 1927, aged 33, he hit 60 home runs—10 more than any other team averaged in total over their entire season.
“Not only was it his best season,” Taylor added, “but it was also the best season in baseball history.”