For 85 years, Babe Ruth, the slugger, and Baby Ruth, the candy bar, have lived parallel lives in which it has been widely assumed that the latter was named for the former. The confection’s creator, the Curtiss Candy Company, never admitted to what looks like an obvious connection ” especially since Ruth hit 54 home runs the year before the first Baby Ruth was devoured.
Had it done so, Curtiss would have had to compensate Ruth. Instead, it eventually insisted the inspiration was “Baby Ruth” Cleveland, the daughter of President Grover Cleveland. But it is an odd connection that makes one wonder at the marketing savvy of Otto Schnering, the company’s founder.
“Baby Ruth” died of diphtheria in 1904, 17 years before Curtiss combined nougat, chocolate, caramel and peanuts into its chewy Baby Ruth.
The truth blurs but yields a marketing tale. Whatever the real story, the Babe-to-Baby connection is one that makes perfect sense to be exploited by Major League Baseball and NestlÃ©, the fourth company to own Baby Ruth.
Baby Ruth, as of today, is the official candy bar of Major League Baseball, and will be through 2008 ” when Babe Ruth would have turned 113 years old.
“We’ve co-existed for so long, so why not work together to sell more candy bars?” John Brody, senior vice president of Major League Baseball for corporate sales and marketing, said in an interview yesterday.
Tricia Bowles, a spokeswoman for NestlÃ©, said that corporate files on the naming of Baby Ruth did not follow the candy bar’s path of ownership from Curtiss to Standard Brands to Nabisco to its current residence. So she could not settle the bet that Baby Ruth lovers have routinely called the NestlÃ© 1-800 consumer telephone line with: was it Ruth Cleveland or Babe Ruth?
“We only know what everyone else knows,” Bowles said, then added, “For a long time, consumers assumed there was a relationship, and I think they’ll be relieved to know there is.”