'All because
of Daddy'

To most, Babe Ruth was among the greatest to ever play baseball. But to Las Vegas Valley resident Julia Ruth Stevens, he was 'Daddy'
Julia Ruth Stevens and son Tom Stevens waving to fans before Ruth Stevens threw out the first pitch at the last game at the original Yankee Stadium.
Updated February 23, 2019 - 3:01 pm


ulia Ruth Stevens’ room is adorned with images of the American legend.

To most, the man in the photos is among the greatest to ever play baseball. She calls him “Daddy.”

inline-regJulia Ruth Stevens, 102, the daughter of New York Yankee Hall of Fame slugger Babe Ruth, at her home in Henderson. Behind her. a colorful Peter Luke painting of Ruth adorns her wall.(Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @BenjaminHphoto

Babe Ruth, the American icon, posthumously received the Presidential Medal of Freedom last year, but for months the medal sat mostly undisturbed on the floor of Tom Stevens’ home in the Las Vegas Valley. Now it is on display in a museum across the country as a gift from the family earlier this month.

“It does no one any good hidden under couches and things like that, so the obvious place for it is the Babe Ruth birthplace museum in Baltimore,” said Stevens, who is Ruth Stevens’ son.

The medal is the latest in a series of donations the 66-year-old engineer has made in The Great Bambino’s memory, but much of the family’s effort to preserve the legend comes through sharing stories about George Herman Ruth when he wasn’t on the baseball diamond.

A lifetime of stories

Julia’s face lights up at times when she speaks about her father, who adopted her after marrying her mother in 1929. She is his last-surviving daughter.

“He’d always stick his head into my room after he got up (and) he’d say, ‘You want to have breakfast with me?’” Ruth Stevens said. “And I’d always say, ‘Of course!’”

Ruth would frequently make a breakfast he called the “hole in one” — a piece of toast with a hole cut out of the middle to make room for an egg. But it wasn’t his favorite dinner.

“Steak,” she said, giggling.

Golden Mylar balloons from her 102nd birthday hang next to a colorful Peter Luke painting of Ruth on the wall of her room at an assisted living facility. The memories of her father are starting to fade as she ages, requiring Tom to chime in with reminders of stories he’s heard throughout his life, such as the way the slugger ordered takeout Chinese food.

“And what would he ask for?” Tom said to his mother.

“A bottle of that ink!” Julia said, referring to soy sauce.

What Julia knows of the Charleston and the foxtrot, she learned from Babe Ruth, mostly at the Hotel Des Artistes in Manhattan, she said.

I think as long as there’s baseball, there will probably be Babe.

Tom Stevens, grandson

The two bonded over dinners in Greenwich Village, radio programs and the circus at Madison Square Garden.

He also taught her golf (it didn’t go well) and bowling (that went better).

“Well, I always tried to beat him, not that I ever did,” she said. “He was a good bowler. Very good. As a matter of fact, I always thought to myself, ‘Whatever sport there is, polo or anything, Daddy always knew how to do it and do it well.’”

In Her Own Words

Julia Ruth Stevens talks about her experiences growing up with her famed father.

On Dancing

On Bowling

On Exercise

On What He Means To Her

But he didn’t teach her baseball, Julia said.

Tom helped his mother recall her earliest memory of her father: Ruth giving her a wristwatch when she was a young girl.

“And it was just thrilling for me to have something like that because there weren’t that many around,” she said.

But while roughhousing on the couch with her dad one day, the crystal in the watch broke.

“And I started to cry because it was the first watch that I ever had,” she said. “And Daddy says, ‘Don’t worry about it, don’t worry about it, I’ll buy you a new one.’ And that’s the way he was about things.”

(Associated Press)
(Associated Press)
(Associated Press)
(Associated Press)

In 1934, Julia joined Ruth on a trip to Japan with a team of all-stars for her high school graduation gift. Ruth extended the trip with Julia and her mother to go sightseeing across Asia and Europe, said Tom, who was born years after Ruth’s death in 1948.

“The trip to Japan and the stay there was probably the most wonderful time of my life,” Julia said. “For one thing, they did leave Daddy alone so that he could do the things that he wanted to. They didn’t crowd around him and he loved that.”

While the family was staying in a suite at a luxurious hotel, a man in a kimono knocked on the door, Julia recalled with some help from her son. The man’s sleeves were filled with baseballs for Ruth to autograph, Tom said.

Tom speaks fondly of stories he heard of Ruth acting as a showman when carving a Thanksgiving turkey, or carefully adding icicle decorations to the Christmas tree long after everyone else lost interest.

Tom said it rankles his mother, who was 12 when she was adopted by Ruth, to be referred to as Ruth’s stepdaughter.

He recalled how Ruth came through when Julia, as a young adult, was sick in the hospital with strep throat. She needed a blood transfusion, and Ruth proved to be a match, Tom said.

“She said as far as she was concerned, between being adopted and the transfusion, ‘I’m his daughter, period,’” Tom said.

Tom’s home is decorated with photos of Ruth, his grandmother Claire, and Julia the day her father walked her down the aisle for her wedding. It would look like a normal collection of family photos if not for the famed ballplayer’s visage.

inline-largePhotos of New York Yankee Hall of Fame slugger Babe Ruth hang on the wall of grandson Tom Stevens’ home in Henderson. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @BenjaminHphoto

Perpetuating a legacy

Camera flashes snapped intermittently throughout a packed Yankee Stadium on Sept. 21, 2008. Julia, wearing a navy Yankees jacket, clutched Tom’s arm as they walked to the infield, waving to an eruption of cheers.

“As the stadium’s history began with a Ruth, it’s only fitting that we close Yankee Stadium with a Ruth,” the announcer’s voice echoed through the stadium.

Ahead of the Yankees’ departure to their newly built baseball cathedral, Julia threw the final ceremonial first pitch in “The House That Ruth Built.”

It was one of many ceremonial experiences for Tom and Julia, who have tossed first pitches, presented trophies, and commemorated Ruth at events. The family history has placed Tom in the presence of prominent athletes, celebrities and four U.S. presidents, he said. Julia still receives fan mail from baseball fans looking to connect with The Sultan of Swat.

inline-largeTom Stevens, the grandson of New York Yankee Hall of Fame slugger Babe Ruth at his home in Henderson. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @BenjaminHphoto

“The only way, really, that I could possibly pay him back is to help perpetuate his legacy,” Tom said. “I think as long as there’s baseball, there will probably be Babe.”

Julia spoke of her special relationship with fans in a biography posted on the Babe Ruth League website about her 2018 induction into the league’s International Hall of Fame.

“I think people feel when they meet me they are touching a part of Daddy. I know it is really him they admire, and it is a wonderful feeling for me to know they are connecting to a part of him through me,” she said in the league biography.

Julia’s age makes it difficult for her to travel to events now, and the days of media interviews are behind her.

But after game days at Yankee stadium to watch Ruth play, her travels abroad, and growing up beside a legend, experiencing the extraordinary and the mundane, Julia said she knows she has lived a full life.

“And it was all because of Daddy,” she said.

Contact Blake Apgar at bapgar@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5298. Follow @blakeapgar on Twitter.

inline-largeJulia Ruth Stevens, 102, still receives fan mail for her father, Babe Ruth. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @BenjaminHphoto

Babe Ruth Statistics

George Herman “Babe” Ruth played for three Major League Baseball teams during his career: the Boston Red Sox (1914-1919); the New York Yankees (1920-1934) and the Boston Braves (1935).

• Batting average: .342 (10th in MLB history)

• Home runs: 714 (3rd in MLB history)

• Hits: 2,873

• RBI: 2,213 (2nd in MLB history)

• Slugging percentage: .690 (1st all-time)

•On-base percentage: .474 (2nd all-time)

• Pitching W/L record: 94-46

• ERA: 2.28


Local Videos
Butterflies At The Springs Preserve
The butterfly habitat is now open at the Springs Preserve. Learn about butterflies and take in the peaceful surroundings. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
The Bellagio Conservatory's spring display has a Japanese theme
The Bellagio's conservatory is hosting around 65,000 flowers, to form a Japanese theme this spring. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bonnie Springs closes (Caroline Brehman/Kimber Laux)
Bonnie Springs Ranch near Las Vegas officially closed its gates Sunday, March 17, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Honoring a fallen North Las Vegas Police officer at his namesake school
The 20th Annual Raul P. Elizondo Honor Day celebrates the fallen North Las Vegas Police officer's legacy at his namesake school. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Windy day in Las Vegas Valley
The Review-Journal's camera on the under-construction Las Vegas Stadium the was buffered by high winds on Wednesday, March 14, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
March gloom falls on Las Vegas
After a rainy overnight, gloomy skies hover over Las Vegas Tuesday morning. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
John Katsilometes gets his head shaved at St. Baldrick's
Las Vegas Review-Journal man-about-town columnist John Katsilometes gets his head shaved by former Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman during St. Baldrick's Foundation shave-a-thon on the Brooklyn Bridge at New York-New York in Las Vegas Friday, March 8, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
The Blue Angels take flight over Las Vegas Strip
The Blue Angels’ U.S. Navy Flight Demonstration Squadron flew their signature Delta formation over a part of the Las Vegas Strip, McCarran International Airport and east Las Vegas and were scheduled to fly over Hoover Dam. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Gross World Records
A group of about 20 children gathered around a TV at Sahara West Library on Feb. 27 for a history lesson on the most disgusting world records.
Graduation for Renewing HOPE program
The Renewing HOPE program graduation for homeless who spend nine months in Catholic Charities program. Graduates are preparing to enter the workforce. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Car crashes into Starbucks near Las Vegas Strip
Lt. William Matchko of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police gives details about a car crashing into a Starbucks at Sahara Avenue and Paradise Road, near the Las Vegas Strip, on Friday, March 1, 2019. (Jessica Terrones/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Car crashed into PT’s Gold
A 60-year-old man who police believe was impaired drove into a PT’s Gold at Silverado Ranch and Decatur boulevards Thursday night, Metropolitan Police Department Lt. William Matchko said. The driver was hospitalized and is expected to survive. A man inside the bar was hit by debris but drove himself to the hospital, Matchko said. (Katelyn Newberg/ Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Driver crashes vehicle into PT’s tavern in south Las Vegas (part 1)
A driver suspected of impairment crashed a vehicle into the wall of a PT’s Gold tavern, at 4880 W. Silverado Ranch Blvd., in Las Vegas on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. (Katelyn Newberg/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Driver crashes vehicle into PT’s tavern in south Las Vegas (pullout)
A driver suspected of impairment crashed a vehicle into the wall of a PT’s Gold tavern, at 4880 W. Silverado Ranch Blvd., in Las Vegas on Thursday, Feb. 28, 2019. (Katelyn Newberg/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Kids Read Books To Dogs At The Animal Foundation In Las Vegas
Kids from local Las Vegas elementary schools took part, Thursday, in a program at the Animal Foundation, where they read books to dogs. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Pioneer Trail highlights historic locations in West Las Vegas
The Pioneer Trail, a 16-site route of historically significant locations in Las Vegas, starts at the Springs Preserve and snakes east until it reaches above the brim of downtown. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutefsya
Vegas Warm Weather Hits Las Vegas Valley
Between Feb. 20-21, parts of the Las Vegas Valley were hit with 7.5" of snow. Less than a week later, it was sunny with temperatures in the 70s. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dr. S. Jay Hazan, a World War II veteran, talks about his arrest at the VA Hospital
Dr. S. Jay Hazan, a World War II Army veteran, was arrested in November after he caused a ruckus at the VA Hospital in North Las Vegas and stole his driver's car keys. He was arraigned on Tuesday, Feb. 26, 2019, and the charges will be dropped after 60 days. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/ Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Claytee White talks about Black History Month
An interview with Claytee White, director of the Oral History Research Center at UNLV. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Reflecting on the Moulin Rouge and a segregated Vegas
Former employees of the Moulin Rouge, the first integrated hotel-casino in Nevada, talk about what it was like in the brief six months the casino was open. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas home prices
Home prices rose in every ZIP code in the Las Vegas Valley in 2018 for the second year in a row, according to SalesTraq. Prices grew fastest in older, more centrally located areas. But prices were highest in the suburbs. The top three ZIP codes for price growth were 89119 (29.8%), 89146 (25%) and 89030 (24.6%). The top three ZIP codes for median sales prices were 89138 ($464,500), 89135 ($420,500) and 89052 ($370,000).
Wagonwheel Drive overpass reopens after ice closure
Overpass at Wagonwheel Drive reopens after ice on the onramp caused the ramp to be shut down, Feb. 22, 2019. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Keeping warm at the city of Las Vegas’ homeless courtyard
With help from the city of Las Vegas, a Salvation Army shelter stays open during the day Thursday and Friday, offering a safe place for the homeless to find respite from freezing temperatures and snow. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Sloppy, Slushy Road Conditions Lead to Slow Traffic
Traffic slowed to a crawl on Jones are near Russell as conditions worsened Thursday. (Mat Luschek/Review-Journal)
Winter storm blankets west side of Las Vegas Valley
On Wednesday evening through early Thursday a winter storm dumped more than 7 1/2 inches of snow on some parts of the Las Vegas Valley. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas snow day for children
Las Vegas kids play in the snow that fell on Feb. 21, 2019. (Belinda Englman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Snow closes Red Rock Canyon, residents enjoy rare snowfall
The greater Las Vegas area was hit with snowfall on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2019. This video shows the areas surrounding Red Rock Canyon and the Summerlin community. Video by: Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal
Las Vegas kids attend school in the snow
Las Vegas children attend school during a rare snowstorm on Feb. 21, 2019. Staton Elementary School and other CCSD schools remained open. (Glenn Cook/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
People enjoying the snow in Summerlin
Fox Hill Park in Summerlin was busy Thursday morning, Feb. 21, 2019, with people enjoying the rare snow that fell overnight. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
NHP advises motorists to take caution during Las Vegas snowstorm
NHP advised motorists to take caution during the snowstorm in Las Vegas. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
It is a rainy Valentine's Day in Las Vegas - Video
These scenes come from the Las Vegas Stadium LiveCam (Las Vegas Review-Journal)