Ripley’s was always fun for us as kids, but what I didn’t realize was how important Ripley’s was for American history! At one point in history, Robert Ripley would get more letters than the president of the United States! Case in point: Ripley’s was critical in establishing our National Anthem:
- On November 3, 1929, in his first-ever syndicated Sunday Ripley’s Believe It or Not! cartoon, Ripley wrote “America Has No National Anthem!” and pointed out that Congress had refused to recognize “The Star Spangled Banner.”
- When an angry public turned to Ripley for answers, he said “Don’t write to me, write to your Congressmen” – and they did. Five million petitions were sent to Congress, with most people demanding answers and action. Even John Phillips Sousa published an opinion in favor of the idea.
- Congress got the message and passed Public-No 823-71st Congress (H.R. 14), and on March 3, 1931, it was signed by President Herbert Hoover.
- “It is without a doubt the single-most important cartoon that Ripley ever drew and published,” said Edward Meyer, Ripley’s VP of Exhibits and Archives. “It changed American history forever!”
Edward Meyer emailed me some important facts about Ripley’s role in baseball:
- early in life Ripley wanted to be a professional baseball player—his a cartooning art was seen as a hobby
- Ripley played semi-pro ball in Santa Rosa California (1906-1909), and played in San Francisco (1909-1912)—he moved to NYC to try out for the NY Giants (1913)—he broke his arm in Spring Training in Texas
- stranded in NYC, he gave up baseball (as a potential career), and took a newspaper job as a sports illustrator. His specialties were baseball and boxing, a little late, he added handball…From 1913 thru 1923 his column was almost always sports related….after a trip around the world in 1923, the column became more “cultural” in emphasis, though sports never disappeared as long as he lived (d. 1949)……
- In addition to his early baseball playing, from 1939 thru the War, he captained a charity baseball team of celebrities raising money for various charities, and the war effort…..famously he played a game in 1939 inside Madison Square Garden which was the first ever indoor big league game—it also featured the first indoor home run—by none other than Babe Ruth who was on the Ripley team….the event was captured on film by Movietone News…The original Ripley team sweaters, including Ruth’s are on display in our museum in NYC…..
- As you can see our early history is full of baseball lore……one of my very favorite stories is of Ripley witnessing a game at the Great Sphinx in Cairo in 1923!
With these facts about Ripley’s, I can confidently say that ”The Home Run that Tours America” is a book that Robert Ripley himself would have admired!