27th annual birthday bash for Babe Ruth is February 1st at Nemo’s Bar in Detroit

Babe Ruth began his career with the Boston Red Sox in 1914.

Babe Ruth began his career with the Boston Red Sox in 1914.

One of Detroit’s growing winter time baseball traditions returns on Saturday, February 1st when the 27th Annual Babe Ruth Birthday Bash takes place at Nemo’s Bar beginning at 7:14 p.m.

Nemo’s, located just two blocks east of the Tiger Stadium site, will once again be completely decked out in Babe Ruth photographs, famous quotations, and other Ruth 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. (There is no cover charge)

Tom Derry, who for the past four years has maintained the Tiger Stadium field as the leader of the “The Navin Field Grounds Crew”, started the party in 1988 at a bar on Grand River. Just 12 people showed up. Last year several hundred were in attendance at Nemo’s.

“In the ‘80’s I was a regular at this little bar in Rosedale Park called “Bar Thom’s” and I used to drive the owner crazy by playing on the jukebox the ‘Happy Birthday Song” by the Sunsetters which she hated,” says Derry with a laugh. “As a joke, and because I’m a baseball nut, I would sometimes bring in these framed photos of famous ballplayers on their birthdays and play the song. On February 6, 1988 for Babe Ruth’s birthday I decided I had to do more than bring in a photo because this was a guy who was legendary for having a good time. So I decided to throw a party every year on his birthday and that’s how it started.”

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the “Sultan of Swat’s” first year in professional baseball when he appeared as a 19-year old left-handed pitcher with the Boston Red Sox. Although Ruth did not pitch against the Detroit Tigers in 1914, he first traveled with the Sox to Navin Field on August 7, 1914, upon arriving at the Michigan Central Depot just west of the ballpark.

Baseball’s most legendary player loved Detroit, including its beer, hot dogs, saloons, women (not sure what order) and of course Navin Field at Michigan and Trumbull where he hit two of his most famous home runs.

On June 8, 1926, he hit what is believed to be the longest home run in major league history when he sent a Lil Stoner pitch high over the center field grandstands onto Plum Street. Officially measured at 626 feet, it reportedly then rolled a couple of blocks until a kid on a bike caught up with it, an estimated 850 feet from home plate.

80 years ago this coming July 13th, the Sultan of Swat hit his 700th career home run off of Tommy Bridges at Tiger Stadium.

Derry, who will be married on August 3rd at Tiger Stadium’s home plate, ( the fourth known wedding ceremony to take place at the famous diamond), says the annual Babe Ruth birthday bash is the perfect time to throw a party.

“It’s between New Year’s and St. Patrick’s Day during the dead of winter, it’s an opportunity to celebrate the National Pastime and arguably its greatest player just before spring training begins.”

For more information, visit www.baberuthbirthdayparty.com

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About Bill Dow

Bill Dow has written numerous articles on Detroit sports history as a regular freelance contributor to the Detroit Free Press sports page, and some of his work has been published in Baseball Digest magazine. He also wrote the Afterword to the latest editions of George Plimpton’s book Paper Lion.