Legendary Babe Ruth/Johnny Sylvester Story Now a Successful Documentary

As mentioned in the Legends section of Babe Ruth Central , the story of Babe Ruth’s impact on Johnny Sylvester is an amazing one. It demonstrates the power of inspiration – in this case its potential healing powers with a little boy, Johnny Sylvester.

In the fall of 1926, Sylvester had been injured in a horseback-riding accident in which he was kicked in the head, developing an infection in his skull. Sadly, things did not look good for little Johnny. Given that the boy was a huge Yankees fan, his uncle tried to cheer his spirits by arranging for a ball to be signed by the team while they were in St. Louis for the 1926 World Series. Sylvester did receive a signed ball from the Yankees and St. Louis Cardinals, with a signature specifically from Ruth that said, “I’ll knock a homer for you in Wednesday’s game.”

Sylvester received the ball before Game 4, and Ruth ended up belting three home runs in that game, making this his original “called shot”.. As impressive as it was that Babe predicted his upcoming home run on behalf of Johnny, things got more interesting when the Babe returned to New York.

Babe visited Johnny Sylvester at his home in New Jersey after the Yankee’s loss in the 1926 Wolrd Series. Up to this point, the prognosis for Johnny’s recovery did not look good; however, the appearance of his idol at his bedside had a tremendous impact on Johnny’s health. he went on to live a full life with his own interesting life and experiences. An amazing but true Babe Ruth-related story.

Now, 87 years later, Johnny Sylvester’s grand nephew, Andrew Lilley, is sharing this story with audiences across the country through a new documentary, titled, “I’ll Knock a Homer For You: The Timeless Story of Johnny Sylvester and Babe Ruth”. Lilley, a graduate of the New York Film Academy and a big fan of the Yankees, has already received a lot of praise for his work, including the “Home Grown Award for Best Documentary Feature” at the Garden State Film Festival in early April. View a clip of the film here:

We also had the opportunity to catch up with the award-winning filmmaker recently for a quick interview:

BRC: How did you get into documentary filmmaking?

Andrew: I got into documentary filmmaking from a burning desire to create. Growing up, I made movies with my friends. I was in awe of director Stanley Kubrick who could make me feel different emotions from using his unique skills in storytelling. Haunting images and hidden subtexts were all elements that stayed with me long after I saw his films. He was like the hidden Master behind the scenes who pulled the strings of emotion, and the viewer was the marionette. A documentary film also lends itself to these elements, and I think given the fact that the story actually occurred – this can add a layer of mystique and intrigue if done correctly.

BRC: What led you to do a documentary about this particular story/event?

Andrew: I decided to do a documentary about this particular story because it always had an air of mystery surrounding it. I knew Johnny Sylvester and I was familiar with the story. I felt I would be able to shed some light on these events, and in the process I would engage the attention of the masses. This is a story that was already in the public consciousness, and probably many thought it was a myth and didn’t realize these events actually occurred. I knew that by making this film, there was already an audience for it.

BRC: What kind of research did you conduct for your film? Did you find anything that surprised you?

Andrew: Comprehensive research was conducted for the film – from old newspapers all the way to audio recordings Johnny Sylvester gave before he passed away. I was able to assemble several people that were very knowledgeable about Johnny Sylvester and the story, as well as some that knew many details about Babe Ruth. I conducted interviews with each of them and I learned a lot. I was surprised to discover that the 1926 World Series was such a thrilling Series in and of itself –it went seven games and the Yanks still had a chance to win it in the last inning against the Cardinals. It was interesting to see just how popular baseball was back then – one headline said there were 63,000 people inside Yankee Stadium for the 1st game of the 1926 World Series. This was an age without the heavy advertising we have today. Everyone back then wore fedoras and actually dressed up for a baseball game. Imagine that.

BRC: Based on your research for the film, what has been your impression of Babe Ruth as a result?

Andrew: I think Babe Ruth was the real deal. He was a genuine guy that loved being around people. He seemed like the type of guy that would have no problem having a beer with a stranger at a bar and sharing some old baseball stories with. He was accessible to the public, and especially liked being around children because he seemed like a big kid himself. He didn’t have any bodyguards, and he was arguably the most famous person on the planet at the time. This is hard to fathom – imagine some big celebrity being like this today. It wouldn’t happen in a million years. The Babe loved what he did for a living and it showed. His records speak for themselves – all done without the benefit of any type of drug enhancement. His amazing baseball skills and his gregarious personality made him larger than life. But he never struck me as letting all of this go to his head. He had humble beginnings and he started out in life as an underdog. And everyone loves the underdog who makes it big!

BRC: For interested Babe Ruth fans, what are some of the upcoming film festivals that you expect to be a part of?

Andrew: I hope to be part of the Baseball Hall of Fame Film Festival held in Cooperstown, NY in September. I will be keeping everyone posted with further developments on where my film can be screened, as well as other cool information on my website and my facebook page for the film. Please like and check them out here:



BRC: Thanks Andrew and best of luck with your film!

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