History Of The Baby Ruth Bar And Reggie Bar

History of the Baby Ruth Bar and Reggie Bar

Photo: Brian Kachejian

There have been many great New York Yankees baseball players over the years. However, only two have had candy bars named after them. Interestingly, one of them was disputed. The Baby Ruth Bar and The Reggie Bar were both named after famous New York Yankee ball players Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson. The Baby Ruth Bar was released in 1921, the Reggie Bar in 1977. This article takes a look at the history behind The Baby Ruth Bar and Reggie Bar. It is a history far more fascinating that you might imagine.

The Baby Ruth Bar

While many people believe that the Baby Ruth Bar was named after Babe Ruth, which it obviously was, the company that developed the candy bar claimed otherwise. In 1921, Babe Ruth was at the top of his game breaking records left and right on his way to establishing himself as the greatest home run hitter of all time, at least until Hank Arron broke his record in 1974. And of course, that record would be broken by Barry Bonds in 2007, although the steroid issue has left an asterisk next to Bonds name in the record books. Nonetheless, in 1921 Babe Ruth was the king of baseball and his name held considerable value to cooperate America looking to cash in on his celebrity. That’s just what the Curtiss Candy Company did in 1921. Headed by Otto Schnering, the crafty executive devised a plan to transform one of his company’s recipes that created the Kandy Kake  by fine tuning it into a new bar that they would call the Baby Ruth. Very cleverly, Otto Schnering used the word “Baby,” instead of “Babe,” so that he did not have to pay any royalties to Babe Ruth. This was a long time before copyright laws were changed to prevent things like this from happening. Nonetheless, the Curtiss Candy Company got away with it, and boy was it a success.

Otto Schnering utilized the name Baby Ruth along with ist genius marketing campaign to turn the candy bar into one of the most successful candy bars ever developed. First off, they only charged $0.05 a bar. They promoted the bar as being full of protein and a meal within itself. Acting like Willy Wonka before anybody ever even heard of Willy Wonka, Otto Schnering would send airplanes close to ballparks and drop Baby Ruth Candy bars tied to mini parachutes from the plans to wide eyed people on the ground not believing what they saw. Within five years, the Baby Ruth bar had become one of the most successful candy bars ever created.

Many people would ask how did Otto Schnering and the Curtiss Candy Company defended their naming of the Baby Ruth Bar without giving any royalties to Babe Ruth. The company claimed that the Baby Ruth Bar was not at all named after Babe Ruth. The company argued that the Baby Ruth Bar was named after the daughter of President Grover Cleveland. Indeed, many newspapers had called President Grover Cleveland’s daughter Ruth Cleveland “Baby Ruth,” when she was born. However, one must remember that President Grover Cleveland had severed two terms during the years 1885 to 1889 and 1893 to 1897. (the only American president to serve two terms non-consecutively)(1) Furthermore, Ruth Cleveland was born in 1891. And sadly, she died in 1904 due to diphtheria. Yet, in 1921, in the mist of Babe Ruth mania, the Curtiss Candy Company was claiming that the candy bar they named Baby Ruth had nothing to due with Babe Ruth but rather a President’s daughter that had died almost twenty years earlier.

In the end, the Curtiss Candy Company got away with it. They were even able to stop Babe Ruth from creating his own candy bar when a 1931 court case titled George H. Ruth Candy Co. v. Curtiss Candy Company ruled in favor of the Curtiss Candy Company claiming that Babe Ruth could not create a candy bar in his nickname because it sounded too much like the Baby Ruth Bar that was owned  by the Curtiss Candy Company.(2) Yes, that is a true story.

The Reggie Bar

Reggie Bar

Photo: Brian Kachejian

The story of the Reggie Bar is far different from the creation of the Baby Ruth Bar. Just the mention of the name the Reggie Bar usually invokes an instant positive and emotional reaction from people who grew up in the New York area in the 1970s. You didn’t have to be a New York Yankees fan to enjoy the Reggie Bar. It was ten times better than the Baby Ruth Bar. Some people would argue calling it a bar was incorrect because the Reggie Bar was shaped like a patty. However, it was so incredibly good. As a 14 year old growing up in the Bronx and being a huge New York Yankees fan in the 1970s, I have to admit that I enjoyed my share of Reggie Bars almost on a daily basis. It was my go to after a nice slice of Sal’s Pizza on 206th Street. That’s what happens when you have a candy store right next to a pizzeria.

Before Reggie Jackson was signed as a free agent by the New York Yankees, he was a member of those always winning Oakland A’s teams of the early 1970s owned by Charles O Finley. The Oakland A’s won the Word Series in 1972,1973, and 1974. The New York Yankees were not exactly fielding the best teams during those years. Then a wonderful thing happened in major league baseball, it was called free agency. Not everyone was a fan of free agency, but it helped lead the New York Yankees baseball teams back to their legendary winning ways. Reggie Jackson was probably the biggest part of that resurrection along with his former Oakland A’s teammate Catfish Hunter.

Before Reggie Jackson signed as a free agent with the New York Yankees, he was quoted in interviews as saying if he ever joined the New York Yankees, they would make a candy bar in his name. Well, he was right!

The New York Yankees had been making progress in their return to glory. They made it to the World Series in 1976 but were swept by the Cincinnati Reds. They needed that special player to put them over the top. In 1977, the New York Yankees signed Reggie Jackson as a free agent to a $2.96 million dollar five year contract. He was worth every penny and more. Reggie Jackson’s reputation would explode with the New York Yankees because of his performance in the post season. Dubbed Mr. October, Reggie Jackson would help the New York Yankees win their first World Series in 1977 in fifteen years. In one World Series game in 1977, Reggie Jackson hit three home runs. And with that, the Reggie Bar was born.

The Curtis Candy Company, the same candy company that had developed the Baby Ruth Bar and had been purchased by Standard Brands in 1964, would become the company to produce the Reggie Bar. On opening day of the 1978 New York Yankees Baseball season, the Curtis Candy Company and the New York Yankees handed every patron who entered the game at Yankee Stadium a free Reggie Bar. It was great way to introduce fans to the new candy bar. However, no one could have ever expected what would happen that game.

The New York Yankees were playing the Chicago White Sox in that opening day game. On the mound was White Six pitcher Wilbur Wood. In the bottom of the first inning Reggie Jackson came up to bat. This was the first time New York Yankees fans were seeing Reggie Jackson since he had helped the team win the World Series the year before. Fans were incredibly excited to see Reggie come to the plate. In true Reggie Jackson superstar fashion, with a count of three balls and no strikes, Reggie Jackson swung on the fourth pitch and hit a tremendous home run to center field to start out the New York Yankees Season. The fans in the stadium went absolutely wild,. They went so crazy that they started to throw their Reggie Bars onto the field to show appreciation for their superstar player. At the time, Reggie Jackson had thought the fans were throwing the bars on the field because they didn’t like them, but then soon realized that it was all in celebration. The White Sox weren’t too happy about it because they had to delay the game to clean up the mess, but that was baseball in the 1970s at Yankee Stadium.

The Reggie Bar was incredibly successful when it was first released. In a 2016 interview with Michael Kay, Reggie Jackson told the New York Yankees broadcaster that the Reggie Bar made eleven million dollars in the New York area in its first year in 1978. The bar was selling extremely well because of Reggie’s name, the colorful packaging, New York Yankee mania and simply because it was a delicious candy bar.

The Reggie Bar only lasted to 1981. However it was not the Reggie Bars fault that production was stopped. The Curtis Candy Company ran into some problems with the SEC Security and Exchanges commission and lost the ability to manufacture the Reggie Bar. The Reggie Bar was brought back in the 1990s and manufactured by Clark Candies as part of the baseball card craze in the 90s when everyone was buying cards hoping that they would become valuables like the 60s and 70s cards had become. Well that didn’t work out to well. So, in 2020, many of those Clark Reggie Bars with the candy still inside them are being sold on eBay.

The original Reggie Bar is long gone. Ther are rumors  every couple of years that it will come back. But for now. the only place you could find a Reggie Bar is on eBay. And it’s going to be a pretty old one. The Baby Ruth Bar can still be found in most stationary stores and Walgreens and CVS.’s However it is no longer the popular candy bar that it once was in the 20th century. It does not even rank in the top 30 of candy bars sold in 2020. (4)

So for now, that candy bar with a rich camel center, lots of fresh roasted peanuts and a super chocolaty covering will be a tasty treat we can only remember with a smile………… unless you were a Mets fan.

 

References

(1) – https://www.whitehouse.gov/about-the-white-house/presidents/grover-cleveland/

(2) – https://casetext.com/case/george-h-ruth-candy-co-v-curtiss-candy

(3 )- https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/j/jacksre01.shtml

(4) – https://www.immigrantentrepreneurship.org/entry.php?rec=111

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