Babe Ruth’s granddaughter comes to Batter Up Baseball Camp
East Lyme – To suggest that her disposition and humor are Ruthian would be obvious. It requires all of five seconds to see that Linda Ruth Tosetti does affable and whimsical by habit, not reaction. But then her Ruthian demeanor would also be literal. Everything about her is Ruthian by definition. She is a Ruth.
And how about the good fortune of 230 baseball campers Wednesday at Bridebrook Park? Forget that they got to play the grand ol’ game for a while. They ended their day – every single one of them – with an autograph and some kind words from Babe Ruth’s granddaughter.
How Campers Spent Their Summer Vacation: They met royalty wrapped in realism, how this woman and her husband, Andy, were thrilled to spend the day as Babe surely would have: having fun with the kids.
“We follow each other on Facebook and we would send messages to each other now and then,” said Bill Buscetto, the mastermind of the Batter Up Baseball Camp, a three-week extravaganza, almost heroic in its scope for allowing 650 sets of parents time this summer to find some peace in their day without their children.
“Linda started commenting on the pictures we post and how happy the kids looked,” Buscetto said. “Andy and I have been talking quite a bit, too. We actually had lunch last week and talked for three hours. They said they’d try and get down to the camp one day and I’m thinking, ‘that would be huge.’”
Almost as huge as the 54-ounce, 36-inch bat they brought with them, a bat The Babe used to swing for the Yankees.
“As you can see,” Buscetto said, “she loves this. She’s still her grandfather’s biggest fan. She said that people know Babe Ruth maybe by what the read in the papers. But he just loved being around children. Whether it be in hospital or in a neighborhood.”
What is immediately noticeable: Linda Ruth Tosetti would surely inspire a “Holy Carbon Copy Batman” for the resemblance to her grandfather. To this, Tosetti cops a wry grin and flashes the Ruthian sense of humor with, “that poor guy.”
Per several published reports, Tosetti is the daughter of Juanita Jennings, a California woman who had an affair with Ruth in 1920. Ruth and his first wife, Helen, later adopted the daughter, named Dorothy. When Helen died and Ruth remarried, Dorothy went to live with her new family.
Dorothy had two sons and four daughters, including Tosetti, born in 1954, who lives in Durham.
Tosetti would have been the star of the show Wednesday even without her pedigree. She talked to everybody. She was also hard to miss, wearing a half-Yankee, half-Red Sox baseball jersey. Before Yankee Stadium became The House That Ruth Built it was The House That Ruth Visited as a member of the Sox.
“Look how excited the kids are to play,” Tosetti said. “That's what my grandfather fell in love with. And if you look at the old pictures, he always loved being around the kids. They have a spark. And it's contagious. Their excitement makes me excited all over again.”
When the Babe was the age of the kids playing Wednesday, he was in Baltimore at the St. Mary’s Industrial School For Boys. He was hardly as apple cheeked and innocent as some of our local lads sweating like Lucifer’s lingerie Wednesday in the searing sun.
“Baseball saved my grandfather’s life,” Tosetti said. “He was on the road to ruin. When he got to St. Mary's, they taught him how to play this game. For two years. Brother Matthias worked on his pitching. He didn’t want to pitch. He already could hit. In fact, they had to flip the field because Babe was knocking out all the trade buildings, hitting 500 foot home runs.”
Tosetti signed two different photos, based on the kids’ favorite team: One with the Babe as a Yankee and the other as a Red Sox. All these years later and still no other player personifies the game’s greatest rivalry.
Just don’t get her going on “The Curse of the Bambino,” the book written (and theory espoused) by Boston Globe columnist Dan Shaughnessy, as to why the Red Sox went 86 years without winning the World Series.
“First of all, if you know baseball, you know there are no curses,” Tosetti said. “Baseball players are superstitious. They know if you throw a curse, it'll come back to you.”
Then Tosetti wound up and fired at two-seamer at Shaughnessy’s collar.
“I’d like to ring that guy’s neck,” she said. “He was behind me once and Andy didn’t even tell me because he knew I’d confront him. He made a lot of money off that curse (stuff). You know what the curse was? The curse is the Red Sox never got players better than the Yankees had. That's the beginning and the end of it. By the way, Babe used to love going back to play in Fenway, that bandbox, hitting them out one after another.”
Full disclosure: Tosetti did admit that “they should have taken Pedro out.”
Otherwise, Tosetti wasn’t done with chin music, chiding baseball for opting for digital tickets (“you can’t save your ticket stub anymore”) and for its obsession with pace of play and time of games – as if there’s anything better than time spent at the ballpark.
Such an enjoyable conversation. And this revelation: As much as we’re awash in all of life’s modernity, The Babe’s has retained the same mystical popularity today, even among little kids.
“It's amazing. And I'm going to tell you why. It's the fans that keep him alive,” Tosetti said. “MLB hates it. It goes back to when Babe was playing. He did everything against (then-commissioner Kennesaw “Mountain”) Landis. Landis wanted to be the guy that saved baseball. Babe was the one.
“He even thought Babe might be Black. He didn't like that. He knew that if he gave Babe a manager’s spot, there would be players of color on his team. Babe learned how to pitch from the Negro Leagues. He believed everybody should play baseball.”
And with that, it was the kids’ turn. They formed a line for pictures and autographs, all 230 of them eventually. Linda Ruth Tosetti’s wish:
“I want them all to see my sign my name,” she said.
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro