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Blast from the pastColumnistsJohn RobertsMelting potIn the week of the Merseyside derby: the tale of Everton’s Dixie, the Babe, the Sox and Liverpool

In the week of the Merseyside derby: the tale of Everton’s Dixie, the Babe, the Sox and Liverpool


JOHN ROBERTS wrote for the Daily Express, The Guardian, the Daily Mail and The Independent, where he was the tennis correspondent for 20 years. He collaborated with Bill Shankly on the Liverpool manager’s autobiography, ghosted Kevin Keegan’s first book, and has written books on George Best, Manchester United’s Busby Babes (The Team That Wouldn’t Die) and Everton (The Official Centenary History).

As Matthew Engel once wrote in the British Journalism Review: “I suspect posh-paper sports writing changed forever the day John Roberts left the Daily Express to join The Guardian in the late 1970s, was handed a piece of routine agency copy and picked up a telephone to start asking questions.”



By John Roberts

13 October 2010


Red stockings were sufficient for Liverpool’s prospective new American owners to get their feet under the door at Anfield with the promise of two men out (their fellow countrymen Messrs Hicks and Gillett) and a return to financial stability.

The club’s supporters, many of whom have marched for change, trust that new talent will fill the red shirts and shorts on the pitch if New England Sports Ventures, parent company of the Boston Red Sox baseball club, take control of Liverpool.

When John W. Henry arrived in Boston in 2002, the Red Sox were in the grip of the “curse of the Bambino.”

The “Bambino” was Babe Ruth, a rising talent, chiefly as a pitcher, in the Red Sox team that won the World Series in 1918. The following year, Ruth was sold to the New York Yankees – and while Babe became the sport’s greatest legend, the Red Sox were to languish for 86 years before winning another World Series.

Henry took over the Red Sox revived the club, ending the seemingly eternal wait for the World Series in 2005 and guiding the club to another triumph two years later.

It may not impress the Liverpool faithful that Ruth was the Dixie Dean of his time, hitting home runs on a par with Dean’s prolific goal-scoring for Everton.

The pair of them, Babe and Dixie, once met in London when Everton were playing Tottenham Hotspur and Ruth was a guest at White Hart Lane.

“At the time there was a lot of talk about baseball becoming big over here, and I think that’s why Babe Ruth was in the country,” Dean told me when I was writing the Official Centenary of Everton.

Dean was introduced to Ruth in the dressing room.

The ‘Bambino’ from Baltimore said to the Everton player: “So you’re that Dixie Dean guy? Well, you should make some money today. What’s your cut of the gate?”

Dixie replied: “I’m paid as much as everyone else: £8.”

Babe couldn’t believe it.

“I’d demand two-thirds of that gate if I was out there,” he said.

And he meant it.


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Details of how to order John Robert’s recent book about working with George Best, as detailed in this column, directly from the publisher can be found here. The book can also be ordered by telephone on 0845 143 0001, and is available in all good book shops.

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