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Former Greensboro Grasshopper Bat Dog, Miss Babe Ruth, Dies At 12

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

A four-legged baseball legend from North Carolina has died. Her name was Miss Babe Ruth. Her career began in the summer of 2006. She worked 649 consecutive home games for the minor league Greensboro Grasshoppers before retiring just three years ago. That's when we first met her on this program in a story brought to us by Sean Bueter of member station WFDD. We're going to take another listen to it as we remember a black lab who retrieved bats, delivered baseballs and stole hearts.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED ANNOUNCER: Here comes our very own Miss Babe Ruth bringing fresh baseballs to the umpire. Today is Miss Babe Ruth's last game ever.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

SEAN BUETER, BYLINE: Greensboro baseball fans saw a beautiful dog trot onto the field carrying a metal bucket with Babe hand-painted on the side. She's made this delivery at least a thousand times before. But last night was different. For Miss Babe Ruth, it's retirement day. And many fans didn't want to see her go.

LONDON KERN: That makes me so sad. She's been a staple here at the park since I can remember.

FELIX HERNANDEZ: Exactly. Yeah, it's definitely something unique that's - to the Grasshoppers and something that I think will bring, you know - or has brought a lot of joy to a lot of people who come see the games.

MACKENZIE GRANT: Most games they sit up there, and we can pet them. And I'm going to miss petting Babe Ruth.

BUETER: That's London Kern, Felix Hernandez and MacKenzie Grant. For nine seasons, Babe played the role of bat dog, and she never missed a home game. She had two jobs - deliver new balls to the umpires and wait patiently by the dugout for a Greensboro hit so she could cheer...

(SOUNDBITE OF DOG BARKING)

BUETER: ...And then fetch the bat, or the stick, the batter left behind. Babe's dedication has made her a star in Greensboro. The mayor gave her a key to the city, and the National Baseball Hall of Fame is adding her signature bucket to its museum collection. Grasshopper player Mason Davis says his teammates love her, too.

MASON DAVIS: Every time I go on deck to hit, I'll, you know - I give her a little pat on the back for good luck (laughter).

BUETER: Does it work?

DAVIS: Yeah, it works sometimes.

BUETER: After the game, Babe's owner, team president Donald Moore, walked her out onto the field. He says he's proud of her and, at nearly 10 years old, she's earned her retirement. Babe couldn't end her career, though, without enjoying a final home game tradition. Moore let her go off her leash, and after a moment's hesitation, she dashed off to round the bases one last time.

(SOUNDBITE OF BENNY CARTER'S "MY BLUE HEAVEN")

CORNISH: That's WFDD's Sean Bueter. We first aired that story back in 2015 when Miss Babe Ruth retired from her position as bat dog for the Greensboro Grasshoppers. She died Friday of cancer. She was 12. Her owner Donald Moore told Winston-Salem Journal, that dog knew she was putting on a show, and she did it with such dignity. There will never be another Babe.

(SOUNDBITE OF BENNY CARTER'S "MY BLUE HEAVEN") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.