The eyes. The nose. The creases in the face. The belly. The neck and complexion. Even the piece of steak at the tip of the fork. The jersey and cap don't hurt either. Hey, this guy looks exactly like Babe Ruth eating a steak! Lucky for him, Gallagher's famous steakhouse in the heart of Manhattan happened to be hosting a Babe Ruth look-alike contest as part of its 85th birthday celebration Monday night.
OK, it's more than a coincidence. Willis "Buster" Gardner of Oberlin, Ohio, made the drive with his wife of nearly 56 years, Cecile, to New York City in order to defend his title from 2007 and the inaugural contest in 2002. And defend it he did; a panel of judges unanimously named him the winner. Well, duh.
"No one looks more like the Babe than I do," Gardner said.
That includes Babe Ruth himself, who died of a rare cancer at age 53 in 1948. Though he's perhaps three inches shorter, Gardner at 75 years old gives us a terrific approximation of what Ruth might have looked like, if the Bambino were given another 20 years to live.
"My love of The Babe started in 1991 when I was an extra in a TV series called 'The Babe Ruth Story,' filmed here in Ohio," Gardner said. "I went to Cooperstown later that year, and as soon as I walked through the door, somebody shouted 'The Babe is back.' ''
Gardner recently appeared before World War II veterans in Wisconsin. Asked what he did [for a living], he said: "Just looked like the Babe."
Gardner says that "some lady from Cooperstown" made him the uniform. Gardner does have a side job, by the way: He's a tow-truck operator and auto mechanic, since 1970 at Dunlap's Garage in Elyria. Gardner says they all call him "Babe" down at the garage. And he's met one of Ruth's granddaughters, Linda Tosetti. She told S.I.:
"If my mother had been there, you'd have had to peel her off the sidewalk."
Gallagher's happened to open in 1927, the same year the Babe hit 60 homers. He probably dined there once or twice through the years, too. We know his likeness has.
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