Special “Memories of Hype Gone By” E-dition


MONDAY, APRIL 11, 2022

Bluegrass Ball-Walkers

           image004Bluegrass Bureau Chief Ken CamBoo says at this morning’s meeting of the Conservative Agenda, Political Insiders were asking Beloved Whistleblower Publisher Charles Foster Kane why he’s always complaining about media hype since political propaganda has been his special province for a very long time. Forty-two years ago, Kane blew the whistle on then GOP Hamilton County Commissioner Norman Murdock for illegally campaigning from the Hamilton County Courthouse. But even before that, Kane was publicizing and promoting some pretty worthwhile causes.


Hurley the Historian said, “Take that time in 1980 when Kane volunteered to line up publicity for then-26-year old Lexington native Keen Babbage’s legendary 14-day, 430-mile walk from the Rawlings Sporting Goods Company in St. Louis to bring the Opening Day baseball to Riverfront Stadium, so five-year-old Jason Edwards, the March of Dimes Poster Child, could throw out the first pitch to Johnny Bench.”

Here’s our 42-year-old news advisory for that day: Mild-mannered P&G advertising salesman Keen Babbage has become an overnight celebrity on his 430-mile trek from St. Louis to Cincinnati to promote the March of Dimes Superwalk on April 27. Yesterday, Babbage averaged better than four miles per hour for the 47 miles between Libroy and Mr. Vernon, Illinois.  

Clear skies and 55-degree weather greeted him as he traveled the flat Illinois farmland. All along the route, cars stopped for autographs, pictures, newspaper interviews, and to offer contributions for the March of Dimes. They all wanted to see the baseball Babbage was carrying to Riverfront Stadium so Jason Edwards, the five-year-old March of Dimes Poster Child could throw out the first ball to the 1980 season to Cincinnati Reds catcher Johnny Bench.

In Nashville, Illinois, employees at the IGA store invited Babbage in for lunch. All he could eat.

This morning, Babbage got the key to the city from the mayor of Mt. Vernon, Illinois, as the town council, local athletes, and reporters accompanied him for the first mile out of town. Tonight, Keen expects to arrive at Fairfield, Illinois—an easy trip. It’s only 32 miles.  


Kane said what started as a publicity stunt to promote the March of Dimes had become an inspiration to him and Babbage because they were constantly reminded of how the Cincinnati poster child finally walked the year before after 14 operations, taking his first steps on Christmas Day that year.  


The Associated Press quoted Babbage: “I remember my fourth day out when I had walked 47 grueling miles. I was beaten with another long day facing me the next day. I didn’t know how I could make it. Then the people in Princeton, Indiana introduced me to their poster child. He had to practice all day just to be able to say my name. I was ashamed of being tired. The kid had done all the work. Compared to him, my 47 miles were nothing that day. Since then, I haven’t been tired.”  


No wonder our Quote for Today Committee asked to borrow Keen’s humble quote above.