It is with a heavy heart that we say goodbye to Julia “Ruth” Stevens, who passed away early in the morning of March 9 after a short illness. Julia was a loving wife, mother, grandmother and great grandmother who lived a wonderful, full life during the 102 years that she was with us.
Julia, who was considered baseball royalty, was the last person who knew the Babe firsthand. Reflecting on their relationship beyond the ball field, she would always tell you she loved him and couldn’t have had a better father. And until the very end, she was proud to call the Babe “Daddy.”
Born into a typical southern family on July 17, 1916 in Athens, Georgia, Julia’s earliest days were spent with her mother, grandmother and two uncles. Her biological father died shortly after Julia was born. Her mother, Claire, in search of a career as a model, left the shelter of her Athens’ home, packed up her mother and toddling baby and headed off to New York in 1918. Claire eventually met and married one of the most legendary men to ever roam the globe – Babe Ruth.
Julia was the older of two daughters adopted by Ruth. Dorothy Helen Ruth Pirone, who passed away in 1989, was adopted by Babe Ruth and his first wife Helen.
Julia embraced the moments she shared with the Babe during a 22-year father-daughter relationship.
She was always pleased to share stories with eager fans and journalists alike. The opportunity to travel the world with Babe Ruth and her mother was one of Julia’s fondest memories of the sports icon. In particular, she loved the “round the world” tour on which they embarked in 1934, including travels through Japan with her family to watch 15 exhibition baseball games. Another affectionate recollection was listening to their favorite radio program, “The Lone Ranger,” with the Babe in their New York apartment.
Stevens had far more memories than memorabilia. She loved going to Opening Day and the World Series. She was always amazed by the huge crowds and excitement. The Babe taught her how to dance and they danced together. He taught her how to bowl, and they bowled together.
Throughout her life, Julia was proud to promote her father’s legacy, which included the Babe Ruth League program. She crisscrossed America encouraging boys and girls in their love of baseball and softball. In doing so, she became one of the greatest Ambassadors for Babe Ruth League and its participants. Both she and her son Tom attended many Babe Ruth League events. In fact, as recently as 2016, Julia attended a Babe Ruth World Series. She was a hundred years old at the time.
Julia also made frequent appearances at baseball events, throwing out many ceremonial first pitches. She always had time for one more autograph, even as she got older and older. Her last appearance was at Fenway Park on July 9, 2016, when she threw out the first pitch at a Red Sox game to celebrate her 100th birthday.
In the late innings of her life, she had a single wish when it came to her father. She hoped that his fame would live as long as baseball is played. She said that Heroes get remembered, but Legends never die.
In 2017, Julia “Ruth” Stevens was inducted into the Babe Ruth League, Inc. International Hall of Fame. She will always be considered a Legend of the Babe Ruth League program.
To most, Babe Ruth was among the greatest to ever play baseball. But to Julia Ruth Stevens, he was “Daddy.”