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MIRC's Babe Ruth footage appears in opera

May 1, 2013 11:19 AM

Moving Image Research Collections’ (MIRC) Benjamin Singleton got a phone call in October from Richard Maltz, who teaches music theory at USC Aiken. He needed footage of baseball great Babe Ruth.

"We have a lot of Fox Movietone News footage of Babe Ruth, so I put that footage on DVDs for him, and he viewed it and picked portions that he liked," Singleton said.

Fast-forward a few months, and now those clips are being featured as part of a multimedia presentation in Bambino, an opera composed by Maltz that will be performed at USC Aiken’s Etherrredge Center on May 3, 4 and 5, and at USC Columbia’s Drayton Hall on May 10, 11 and 12. The production is performed by a blend of students and professionals, and it is produced by Opera at USC.

“I was looking specifically for Babe Ruth in a Red Socks uniform,” Maltz said. “I grew up in Boston, and I have been to a lot of games at Fenway Park and was familiar with the ‘Curse of the Bambino.’ I always thought it would make a great story for an opera.

“Ben probably sent me a couple hours of footage of Babe Ruth,” Maltz continued. “I’m telling the story from the point of Babe Ruth being a Red Sox member, and of him being in Fenway Park. I found some of that film, and some of him later in his career. I found some of him signing a contract with the New York Yankees, and of him as an older man. It will be projected during the opera, along with images from other sources, including other libraries. Some of the images I had to purchase from the Baseball Hall of Fame.

“The Movietone footage was made available free to me, which is a pretty cool thing,” Maltz said. “This library is on the USC campus and it provides this service free of charge to a USC faculty member, which helped me finish this project, which is my first opera. It was a real stroke of luck for me."

The image above is from "Fox News outtake A8282. September 1, 1925." Babe Ruth stands on the rooftop of his New York City apartment. Yankee Stadium can be seen over his right shoulder.