Can’t Blame Babe Ruth’s Death On Cigars & Booze

Everyone knows what killed Babe Ruth in 1948 at the age of 53 - throat cancer, the by-product of years of smoking too many fat cigars and pounding way too much booze. It was a neat, cautionary tale about how even the greatest athletes can be brought down by their own avarice and over-indulgence.

Babe Ruth, 1945

Well, it turns out that the whole story was a lie. The WESTCHESTER (NY) JOURNAL NEWS reports that Dr. William Maloney spent a year researching Ruth’s case, and while it turns out that he did die of cancer, it wasn’t throat cancer at all, but an extremely rare form of cancer called nasopharyngeal carcinoma. His death wasn’t caused by his love of smokes and booze at all, but just being on the wrong end of unlikely odds.

What does this mean for us today? I don’t know about you, but I am going on a massive, massive bender! The only reason I’ve lived a clean, healthy lifestyle is because I didn’t want to die like The Babe did. But if that’s not what killed him, then I’ve got some living to do!

First up: Catch a plane to Havana by way of Toronto to see how many Cuban cigars I can smoke in 24 hours. I’m guessing I can do 30, especially if I’m washing them down with sweet, delicious whiskey. John Daly must be thrilled with this news.

In a sense, Babe Ruth was actually a pioneer in cancer research. He was the first person to receive a new, untested type of chemotherapy, which while ultimately unsuccessful in treating him, led to a range of more successful treatments.

So take that, Lou Gehrig! Who’s the medical hero now? To paraphrase Denis Leary, if they don’t start calling this Babe Ruth Disease within the next six months, I’m writing an angry letter to the AMA.