In 1937, Bulloch County's citizens had a chance to match wits with the one and only "Sultan of Swat," Babe Ruth, perhaps the greatest baseball player in the game's long history.
According to the Bulloch Herald, the opportunity to possibly speak with Ruth was to happen twice weekly on a new syndicated talk radio show with "The Great Bambino." The show was sponsored by Sinclair Oil, whose local refining agent was the W.L. Waller Company in Statesboro.
The radio show, entitled "Match Wits with Babe Ruth," was broadcast on the Columbia Broadcast System's (CBS) radio stations. Ruth's show aired Wednesday and Friday evenings between 9:30–9:45 p.m.
Every week, Ruth would forecast the winners of Major League Baseball games and answer baseball questions from his listeners, who would try to stump him. These questions were submitted by mail, and the winning entries, or challenges, would be asked to join America's most famous living baseball legend on-air. "The Babe" also interviewed prominent baseball players and offered pointers on playing the game of baseball to both up-and-coming "sandlot" players and to professional players in the twilight of their careers.
The most interesting, and appealing, aspect of these challenges is that Ruth would award a total of 522 prizes each week to selected listeners all across the nation. They included two deluxe 1937 Nash Ambassador automobiles, two RCA Victor audio radios, plastic Sinclair Oil dinosaurs — the dinosaurs were Sinclair's logo, symbolizing the origins of fossil fuel — and 500 Spalding "Babe Ruth" baseballs. Each official National League ball bore a "Sinclair Babe Ruth Baseball Contest" label opposite the sweet spot and was inscribed "Sincerely Babe Ruth" in black ink on a side panel.
The baseballs were not actually signed by Ruth but by what was called a secretarial system of signatures, in which many members of the Bambino family were employed to sign the balls.
Every Sinclair Oil station was given one or two wooden dinosaurs (measuring approximately 19 inches long by 14 inches high). Each dinosaur displayed a colorful paper label promoting the weekly contest (featuring an image of Ruth) that also encouraged patrons to "ask for a free entry blank" and bore circular Sinclair Gasoline and Sinclair Oil labels.
In recent auctions, a script for the show sold for several thousand dollars, assorted radio show memorabilia sold for as much as $1,500, and the baseballs themselves sold for as much as $600 each.
Roger Allen is a local lover of history. He provides a brief look at the area's historical past. Email Roger at firstname.lastname@example.org.