Babe Ruth, arguably the greatest baseball player ever and an enduring American icon, was prevented from becoming a manager by something that had nothing to do with his competency or baseball acumen, says the Bambino's daughter in a compelling New York Times profile.

Julia Ruth Stevens (below, left), 97, told Peter Kerasotis that baseball executives were afraid that her father would have brought in black players at a time when there were none in the major leagues.

“Daddy would have had blacks on his team, definitely,” Stevens said.

Ruth retired from baseball in 1935, more than a decade before Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier. Racism plagued MLB front offices at that time, and Stevens believes the fear compelled club owners to steer clear of Ruth.

Stevens said her father befriended black athletes and celebrities, and often spoke highly of Satchel Paige, the legendary Negro Leagues pitcher who was not allowed to play in MLB until he was 42 in 1948, which was the year after Robinson started playing for the Dodgers. (Ruth also died in 1948.)

Of black celebrities, Kerasotis includes this interesting anecdote in the story:

"Ruth also was known to frequent New York City’s Cotton Club and befriended black athletes and celebrities. He once brought Bill Robinson, a tap-dancer and actor known as Bojangles, into the Yankees’ clubhouse. Robinson also was with Ruth during the 1932 World Series in Chicago, and at the game when Ruth was said to have called his home run. When Ruth died in August 1948, Robinson was an honorary pallbearer."

(H/T to For The Win)