Obituary: Julia Ruth Stevens (1916-2019)

R.I.P. to Julia Ruth Stevens, the last surviving child of Babe Ruth, author, and a spokesman for her father’s legacy. She died on March 9 at the age of 102.

Stevens was born on July 7, 1916 in Athens, Ga. Her parents, Claire and Frank Hodgson, divorced when she was young, and she moved to New York with her mother. Claire married Babe Ruth on Opening Day of the 1929 baseball season, and they both legally adopted each other’s daughter from their first marriages. Babe was said to be a doting father to his girls, even donating blood to Stevens in 1938 when she was suffering from a neck ailment.

Babe Ruth donates his blood to daughter Julia when she was suffering from cellulitis of the neck. There is no truth to the rumor that she immediately left the hospital and slammed three home runs. Source: The Mercury (Pottstown, Pa.), August 8, 1938.

“He taught me how to dance, and I would really much prefer dancing with Daddy than with any of my dates,” she said, per her New York Times obituary.

Stevens authored several books about her father, and when her mother died in 1976 and her sister Dorothy died in 1989, she was the last remaining link to Babe Ruth. She traveled the country for events honoring her legendary father until just a few years ago. She was a frequent guest at Yankees games, whether it was to throw out the first pitch or to commemorate his legacy in some other fashion.

Julia Ruth, center, along with Claire and Babe Ruth before Game 1 of the 1932 World Series. Source, Boston Globe, Sept. 29, 1932.

She was, at heart, a Red Sox fan, and celebrated her 100th birthday by throwing out the first pitch at Fenway Park. She was married three times, the last of which, to Brent Stevens, lasted 49 years. They operated a New Hampshire poultry farm. The Times reports that Stevens didn’t really receive many financial benefits from her father’s legacy until CMG Worldwide began representing the Ruth estate as its marketing agent in 1984. After that she began getting royalty payments in the high five figures.

She is survived by her son from her third marriage, two grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

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