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- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
I meet with the old woman at the nursing home in South Boston. We sit on the porch with a view of Boston Harbor. I do not want to be here, but she has pestered me so often with her letters, saying she has important sports news. I have no idea what this news could be.
"Ms. O'Moynihan..." I say.
"Call me Bubbles," she says. "That was my stage name. I've kept it."
Bubbles says that she is 90 years old, that she used to be a dancer. As a girl she lived on D Street, not five blocks from where we are sitting, but she moved to New York when she was 17. On her own. That was where she says she met Harry Frazee. "You know of Harry Frazee?" she asks.
"Knew him? Ha! I saved him."
Her story—so ludicrous I hesitate to repeat it here—is that she was, for a short time, Harry Frazee's mistress. She says that back in 1919, Frazee was going to sell Babe Ruth—to the New York Yankees, of all people. She says she changed his mind.
Frazee, according to Bubbles, was losing money on a number of ventures, notably the Red Sox and a string of Broadway plays he had backed. He had fallen for her while she danced in the chorus of one of the plays, and now was planning to make her the star of a new play called No! No! Nanette! He needed cash.
Bubbles claims that Col. Jake Ruppert, owner of the struggling New York Yankees, had offered $125,000 plus an important $300,000 mortgage payment on old Fenway Park for Ruth. Even though the slugger had hit a record 29 home runs in 1919, Frazee figured he could sell Ruth, finance the show and capture Bubbles' heart.
"He was crazy, that Frazee," says Bubbles. "The deal was set to be signed December 26. I guess he forgot I was from Boston. I'd been a Red Sox fan all my life. My father was one of the Royal Rooters. Sell Babe Ruth? I told him I'd rather watch Babe Ruth play baseball for the Sox than be the biggest star on Broadway any day."