The Big Bam: The Life and Times of Babe Ruth
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He was the Sultan of Swat. The Caliph of Clout. The Wizard of Whack. The Bambino. And simply, to his teammates, the Big Bam. From the award-winning author of the New York Times bestseller Ted Williams comes the thoroughly original, definitively ambitious, and exhilaratingly colorful biography of the largest legend ever to loom in baseball—and in the history of organized sports.
“[Montville is] one of America’s best sportswriters.” —Chicago Tribune
Babe Ruth was more than baseball’s original superstar. For eighty-five years, he has remained the sport’s reigning titan. He has been named Athlete of the Century . . . more than once. But who was this large, loud, enigmatic man? Why is so little known about his childhood, his private life, and his inner thoughts? In The Big Bam, Leigh Montville, whose recent New York Times bestselling biography of Ted Williams garnered glowing reviews and offered an exceptionally intimate look at Williams’s life, brings his trademark touch to this groundbreaking, revelatory portrait of the Babe.
Based on newly discovered documents and interviews—including pages from Ruth’s personal scrapbooks —The Big Bam traces Ruth’s life from his bleak childhood in Baltimore to his brash entrance into professional baseball, from Boston to New York and into the record books as the world’s most explosive slugger and cultural luminary. Montville explores every aspect of the man, paying particular attention to the myths that have always surrounded him. Did he really hit the “called shot” homer in the 1932 World Series? Were his home runs really “the farthest balls ever hit” in countless ballparks around the country? Was he really part black—making him the first African American professional baseball superstar? And was Ruth the high-octane, womanizing, heavy-drinking “fatso” of legend . . . or just a boyish, rudderless quasi-orphan who did, in fact, take his training and personal conditioning quite seriously?
At a time when modern baseball is grappling with hyper-inflated salaries, free agency, and assorted controversies, The Big Bam brings back the pure glory days of the game. Leigh Montville operates at the peak of his abilities, exploring Babe Ruth in a way that intimately, and poignantly, illuminates a most remarkable figure.
loved the Babe. The News—through Hunt—was more than happy to present the Babe. “The Babe Breaks Pet Bat in Hollywood” (headline): “You will recall that for years the Bambino treasured a pet bat,” Hunt wrote. “He guarded it zealously. No other player ever used it. The bat was one with which he knocked three home runs in one World Series game. That bat enabled him to break a dozen records in the last series between the Yankees and Cards. “But yesterday, while rehearsing a home run blow, he
They were predictable partners who played the way they lived, Gehrig reserved, Ruth flamboyant. He would nip into a quart of Seagram’s 7, become more flamboyant as the nips and the game progressed, bid on anything. Gehrig would become disgusted. Everett Scott, when he played with the Yankees, had made good money off the Babe in poker. Anyone who knew cards and had time would make good money off the Babe. He needed action and more action, pushing the bets. Money streamed from the Babe. “One night
soon the train was filled with shirtless bodies. The Babe was soon down to his silk underwear. An attempt was made to stuff Miller Huggins into some overhead compartment, but failed. (He was not hung off the back of the train, as legend has it.) A successful attempt was made to rip the silk brocade nightshirt of Col. Jake Ruppert. Ruth was the perpetrator. “Don’t you do it, Root,” the Colonel said, discovered in his drawing room. “This is custom-made silk.” “Aw, I only want a piece of it,”
exhibition in some small town out near Brockton,” Hooper said. “Before the game, he took a bunch of balls and went with another guy out to the outfield, and the guy pitched and Babe just started swinging. I remember noticing how well he hit.” The Babe had a permanent red mark on his chest, something that looked like a woman’s stretch mark, only it was on the chest. The mark was hard to miss in the locker room. Hooper asked him one day how he’d got it. “Swung too hard,” the Babe said. Swung too
in seven games. Scandal? What scandal? The show was too exciting, too compelling, for a scandal to stop it. The Babe—though he probably would get too much credit for “saving baseball” from a crisis that never really developed—certainly was a huge part of that show. He had finished the season accompanied by his own brass band. The fire that destroyed much of St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys in 1919 had left some huge bills to be paid. The Babe arranged for the 50-member school band to