Chasing the Ghost of Babe Ruth
June 1, 2014 — Babe Ruth made his major league debut with the Boston Red Sox 100 years ago this July 11. To mark this special anniversary, I wrote a comprehensive and unique feature story on The Babe, which will be published in the July Issue of Yankees Magazine.
As many baseball fans know, in addition to changing the game of baseball with his on-field heroics, the Bambino also lived life to the fullest when he wasn’t on the diamond. He loved to fish, hunt, play golf, and of course, enjoy the nightlife.
For the story, I found 10 places in and around New York that The Babe frequented — and which still exist today. While The Babe has been gone for 66 years, his memory is very much alive at the destinations that are included in the feature. If you’re a fan of Yankees history or an admirer of the man who set the baseball’s single-season and career home run records, you will not only enjoy this story, but you might even be travel to one of the golf clubs that Ruth played at or grab a drink at one of the taverns that he frequented or visit the hotel that he lived after his contract was sold by the Red Sox to the Yankees.
In my opinion, the most interesting place I found during several weeks of research was Gyp’s Tavern in rural Sandyston, New Jersey.
During Ruth’s time in pinstripes, he befriended Yankees pitcher Russ Van Atta, who was from Sussex County, New Jersey. After he retired from the game, Ruth often traveled to the rural area in northwest New Jersey to visit with his former teammate. On one of those trips, Ruth was introduced to Gyp’s Tavern (see photo below), located nearby Big Flat Brook, where The Babe and Van Atta liked to fish. Ruth forged a friendship with the tavern’s owner, George “Gyp” Roselli, and the two spent a lot of time together in the tavern, hunting in the woods and fishing on Big Flat Brook.
A few weeks ago, I had lunch at Gyp’s with the original owner’s son, also named George, and Bob Edwards, who owned and ran the bar from 1974 through this spring.
Edwards, who purchased the tavern after Gyp passed away, showed up at the bar with a box filled with Ruth photos, all of which were given to him in the years he owned Gyp’s.
The stack included an image of Ruth and Gyp in front of the tavern (below), photos of Ruth hunting and a photo of the two friends fishing on a bridge at Big Flat Brook — which we visited after lunch and which is part of a separate entry in the story.
Although Gyp’s son was not yet born when his father hung out with the great Bambino, he remembers learning about those good times. When we sat down for lunch, he shared those memories with me.
“A lot of people met The Babe, but my dad was buddies with him,” Roselli said from a table that overlooks scenic Kittatinny Lake. “Babe never paid for a drink, but he did a lot for my dad as well. When Babe came up, my dad would get him to tend bar. People would walk up to the bar, and there was Babe Ruth, asking them what they wanted to drink. That was a novelty.”
Copies of the Ruth photos from Edwards’ collection still hang in the bar.
“In the first week I was here, a few people asked me where the photos were,” said current owner Bill Miller. “That’s when I knew I had to put them back on the walls. That’s one of the reasons people come to Gyp’s.”
Gyp’s is just one of the interesting places in which Ruth made a lasting imprint. Check out this story to read about several others. Hopefully, you will be compelled to visit a few of them.
–Alfred Santasiere III