Were Babe Ruth and Elvis Presley twins? On the surface, that's a hard case to make. There's the age difference, 40 years. And the separate sets of parents. The keen observer will also note the dissimilarity in appearance. Women wept at the beauty of Elvis's face, while Babe's moonish mug was so nonclassically constructed, it could have stopped a clock in mid-tick.
But dig deeper into the lives and lore of America's two greatest pop-culture gods and the similarities are astonishing, beginning with the date they died, Aug. 16—Ruth in 1948 and Presley in 1977. Was there some kind of psychic-spiritual link between the two men who changed our world by swinging their hips just so? You be the judge.
Both rose from abject poverty to absolute royalty. Ruth was born in a row house in Baltimore and became the Sultan of Swat. Presley was born in a crude house his father built in Tupelo and became the King.
The playful wink was a signature of both. Jimmy Austin, an opposing third baseman who watched many of Babe's home run trots, said, "He'd never pass me without giving me a wink." Were they having fun? Ruth would come back to the dugout after a homer, laughing and boasting, "Baby got his today!" Elvis on stage would break into uncontrollable giggles.
They were the end of the world as we knew it. To purists, the Ruth-inspired home run craze did for baseball what the butt-mounted outboard motor might do for Olympic swimming. Preachers and parents recoiled at Presley's body language.
Both busted out at 19, Elvis releasing his first record, That's All Right (Mama), for Sun Records and Babe signing with the minor league Baltimore Orioles.
Ruth loved music and Presley loved sports. Babe had a booming baritone voice and considered himself a damn line singer. Elvis enjoyed touch football and full-contact roller-skating scrimmages with his buddies.
Guns, guns, guns. Ruth loved to hunt, and he obtained a permit to pack heat, to protect his ever-present wad o' cash. Presley owned many weapons, including a machine gun.
They ate like pigs. Early in Babe's career he would down a mid-game snack of hot dogs, peanuts and ice cream on the bench. Elvis's favorite snack was a peanut butter and banana sandwich, fried in a pool of butter. Guess what? They ballooned from sleek young quarter horses—Presley 6'1" and 185 pounds, Ruth 6'2" and 185, both with broad shoulders and skinny legs—into hippos. Ruth would pork up as heavy as 270 pounds. Presley, between movies, would push 250.
Both were relentless in their pursuit of the wine-women-song parlay. They bragged like schoolboys about their sexual conquests and seemed oblivious to the anguish they caused their wives. Helen Ruth suffered a nervous breakdown and finally left her husband. Elvis was stunned and enraged when his wife, Priscilla, left him for a karate instructor.