In The Pipeline: Local Babe Ruth footage unearthed

August 15, 2012|By Chris Epting
(Courtesy Chris…)

I've never seen anything like this. It's hard to fathom. So rare is the view that I don't even want to blink for fear of missing a split second. Did I really just see that?

Recently, at a signing for my new book, "Baseball in Orange County," an elderly woman and her stepdaughter Carolyn approached me.

Carolyn explained that her stepmom was the daughter of Glenn Thomas, the renowned auto dealer whose father, Walter, founded the Long Beach Auto Co., in 1909. And the women came bearing artifacts: rare images of Mr. Thomas with Babe Ruth taken at a dinner function in 1927.

The Thomas-Ruth connection was no secret to me. In my new book, I feature a popular image of Thomas after a successful duck-hunting trip in 1927 with not just Ruth but also Lou Gehrig, taken at the long-gone Farmers Gun Club in Cypress near where the Los Alamitos Race Course is today.


I am something of a Ruth aficionado, and was thrilled to include the photo (along with some never-before-seen photos of the Bambino playing in a 1924 game against Walter Johnson in Brea). With any baseball books I've written, a simple rule applies: The more Ruth the better.

So Carolyn, who lives locally, and her stepmom, who was visiting from Florida, came just to show me the images — a thoughtful gesture and a marvelous surprise. But they also told something else: They had recently discovered home movies of Thomas and Ruth fishing and hunting, and some included Gehrig.

To understand why my jaw dropped, consider the following from a 2011 New York Times piece on the discovery of another Ruth home movie, one that showed him with Gehrig, horsing around before a 1927 exhibition game: "There are so few moving images of Babe Ruth that even Major League Baseball's monstrous archive contains less than an hour's worth."

That's right. Less than one hour of film exists of Ruth — who died Aug. 16, 1948 — that we know about. What's more, Ruth was thought to have also hunted right here in Huntington Beach, at the Lomita Gun Club that once existed in Huntington Harbour. Might this newly uncovered footage shed any light on that expedition?

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