In what has become a Detroit baseball tradition in the dead of winter, Tom Derry will host his 30th consecutive Babe Ruth Birthday Party this coming Saturday, February 4th at Nemo’s bar located at 1384 Michigan Avenue just two blocks east of the former Tiger Stadium site.
The festivities appropriately begin at 7:14 PM, representing the number of homers Ruth belted in his career, a record that stood until Henry Aaron surpassed him in 1974.
Nemo’s, once ranked the #3 sports bar by Sports Illustrated, will be decked out with Babe Ruth photographs, famous quotations, and other memorabilia. In honor of the Babe, the beer will flow and there will be plenty of free hot dogs, peanuts, Cracker Jack, Baby Ruth candy bars, and a birthday cake. As always there is no cover charge.
Denny McLain, the two-time Cy Young Award winner, American League MVP, 1968 World Series champion, and the last pitcher to win 30 games in a season will be on hand to sign free autographs (one per person).
The Sultan of Swat’s great grandson Brent Stevens attended the party a few times, and on Saturday the special guest will be a granddaughter of Ruth’s arch rival.
Cindy Cobb, the daughter of The Georgia Peach’s youngest child Jimmy, has become friends with Derry and his fellow Navin Field Grounds Crew members, the group who for several years maintained the hallowed grounds where Ty starred for Detroit from 1905 through 1926.
Last summer she was in town to watch the Tigers and promote the widely acclaimed biography, Ty Cobb: A Terrible Beauty by Charles Leerhsen. The book provides a more accurate portrait of Cobb and debunks many of the false negative myths that unfairly tarnished his image.
“When Tom told me about his annual party and then invited me, at first I wondered hmmm…. a tribute to Babe Ruth in Detroit? But now I totally get it and I am looking forward to it,” she says with a laugh. “What people may not realize is that my grandfather and Babe became good friends and that Ty is the one who introduced Ruth to his wife Claire.”
In Leerhsen’s Cobb biography he writes:
“After Cobb’s retirement the two greats often golfed together and spent long evenings drinking whiskey and swapping tales, the way ex-ballplayers do. Maybe they weren’t such an odd couple after all. Besides having baseball and success in common they also had Claire Merritt Hodgson, a Georgia native and Ziegfield Follies girl who was Ruth’s second wife. In her biography, The Babe and I, Mrs. Ruth said she had known Cobb “very well” as a teenager back in Athens.”
Tom Derry started the Babe Ruth Party at a bar on Grand River in 1988 where twelve people showed up. Over the years the party has been at six different venues but as Derry says, “it’s not about the location, it’s about the people.”
“The Babe as we all know was larger than life, had a huge appetite for a lot of things, and simply liked to have a good time with friends and people he just met,” says Derry. “It is in that spirit that I throw the party, because I think it really unifies people for at least one night.”
For more information about the Babe Ruth Birthday Party, visit the event page on Facebook.