The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From Jane Leavy, the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Boy and Sandy Koufax, comes the definitive biography of Babe Ruth—the man Roger Angell dubbed "the model for modern celebrity."

A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2018

“Leavy’s newest masterpiece…. A major work of American history by an author with a flair for mesmerizing story-telling.” —Forbes

He lived in the present tense—in the camera’s lens. There was no frame he couldn’t or wouldn’t fill. He swung the heaviest bat, earned the most money, and incurred the biggest fines. Like all the new-fangled gadgets then flooding the marketplace—radios, automatic clothes washers, Brownie cameras, microphones and loudspeakers—Babe Ruth "made impossible events happen." Aided by his crucial partnership with Christy Walsh—business manager, spin doctor, damage control wizard, and surrogate father, all stuffed into one tightly buttoned double-breasted suit—Ruth drafted the blueprint for modern athletic stardom.

His was a life of journeys and itineraries—from uncouth to couth, spartan to spendthrift, abandoned to abandon; from Baltimore to Boston to New York, and back to Boston at the end of his career for a finale with the only team that would have him. There were road trips and hunting trips; grand tours of foreign capitals and post-season promotional tours, not to mention those 714 trips around the bases.

After hitting his 60th home run in September 1927—a total that would not be exceeded until 1961, when Roger Maris did it with the aid of the extended modern season—he embarked on the mother of all barnstorming tours, a three-week victory lap across America, accompanied by Yankee teammate Lou Gehrig. Walsh called the tour a "Symphony of Swat." The Omaha World Herald called it "the biggest show since Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey, and seven other associated circuses offered their entire performance under one tent." In The Big Fella, acclaimed biographer Jane Leavy recreates that 21-day circus and in so doing captures the romp and the pathos that defined Ruth’s life and times.

Drawing from more than 250 interviews, a trove of previously untapped documents, and Ruth family records, Leavy breaks through the mythology that has obscured the legend and delivers the man.

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Additional Information

Publisher
HarperCollins
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Published on
Oct 16, 2018
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Pages
656
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ISBN
9780062380241
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
Biography & Autobiography / Sports
History / United States / 20th Century
Sports & Recreation / Baseball / History
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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When all-time pitching great Christy Mathewson died of tuberculosis in 1925 at the age of 45, it touched off a wave of national mourning that remains without precedent for an American athlete. The World Series was underway, and the game the day after Mathewson's death took on the trappings of a state funeral: officials slowly lowered the flag to half-mast, each ballplayer wore a black armband, and fans joined together in a chorus of "Nearer My God to Thee." Newspaper editorials recalled Mathewson's glorious career with the New York Giants, but also emphasized his unstinting good sportsmanship and voluntary service in World War I. The pitcher known to one and all as "Matty" or "Big Six" was as beloved for the strength of character he brought to the national pastime, as for his stunning 373 career victories. "I do not expect to see his like again," said his best friend and former manager, John McGraw. "But I do know that the example he set and the imprint he left on the sport that he loved and honored will remain long after I am gone." In Matty, Ray Robinson tells the story of a man who became America's first authentic sports hero. Until Mathewson, Robinson reveals, Americans loved baseball, but looked down on ballplayers and other athletes as hard-drinking, skirt-chasing ne'er-do-wells. Deprived of real-life role models, millions of readers followed the serialized exploits of Frank Merriwell, a fictional hero who excelled at sports from baseball to billiards and never drank, smoke, or swore. Robinson shows how an eager public greeted Mathewson as a flesh-and-blood version of Merriwell from his first year at Bucknell University, where he shone as star pitcher, premier field-goal kicker, and class president. Lured into the big leagues before he could graduate, the tall, handsome pitcher soon won over men, women and children with his sense of fair play and his arsenal of blazing fastballs, sweeping curves, and infamously deceptive fadeaway pitches. Robinson skillfully details the highlights of Mathewson's career, including his showdowns against the great batters of his day and his encounters with the young Brooklyn, Chicago, Pittsburgh and St. Louis teams. Here are the six remarkable days in October, 1905 when Mathewson became the only pitcher ever to hurl three straight shutouts in a World Series, and the afternoon at West Point when he won $50 in a bet that he could throw 20 of his best pitches to exactly the same spot. Robinson does not underplay Mathewson's occasional failings, but the most surprising aspect of this fascinating portrait is just how close America's first Hall of Fame pitcher came to living up to his image. Drawing on rare interviews, press clips, and long overlooked eyewitness accounts, Matty brings baseball's golden age to life--not only the great teams and the early superstars, but the long train trips between games, with cramped berths and no air conditioning; the small town ballplayers let loose amidst big city vice; and the two-bit gambling that eventually led to the infamous Black Sox Scandal of the 1919 Series (a scandal that might have escaped detection if the sportswriters in the press box with Mathewson had not been able to rely on his experienced eye for clues to how ballplayers might throw games). Offering rare insight into the making of an early twentieth century American hero, Matty is must reading for anyone who loves baseball.
Though his pitching career lasted only a few seasons, Howard Ellsworth ?Smoky Joe? Wood was one of the most dominating figures in baseball history?a man many consider the best baseball player who is not in the Hall of Fame. About his fastball, Hall of Fame pitcher Walter Johnson once said: ?Listen, mister, no man alive can throw harder than Smoky Joe Wood.?

Smoky Joe Wood chronicles the singular life befitting such a baseball legend. Wood got his start impersonating a female on the National Bloomer Girls team. A natural athlete, he pitched for the Boston Red Sox at eighteen, won twenty-one games and threw a no-hitter at twenty-one, and had a 34-5 record plus three wins in the 1912 World Series, for a 1.91 ERA, when he was just twenty-two. Then in 1913 Wood suffered devastating injuries to his right hand and shoulder that forced him to pitch in pain for two more years. After sitting out the 1916 season, he came back as a converted outfielder and played another five years for the Cleveland Indians before retiring to coach the Yale University baseball team. Joe?s final reward for courageously enduring the eccentricities of his gold-digging father, his sister?s polio, the 1926?27 baseball scandal, and the loss of his beloved wife and a son was an honorary doctorate in 1985 from Yale and its president, Bart Giamatti.

With details culled from interviews and family archives, this biography, the first of this rugged player of the Deadball Era, brings to life one of the genuine characters of baseball history.

A fascinating and authoritative biography of perhaps the most controversial player in baseball history, Ty Cobb—“The best work ever written on this American sports legend: It’s a major reconsideration of a reputation unfairly maligned for decades” (The Boston Globe).

Ty Cobb is baseball royalty, maybe even the greatest player ever. His lifetime batting average is still the highest in history, and when he retired in 1928, after twenty-one years with the Detroit Tigers and two with the Philadelphia Athletics, he held more than ninety records. But the numbers don’t tell half of Cobb’s tale. The Georgia Peach was by far the most thrilling player of the era: When the Hall of Fame began in 1936, he was the first player voted in.

But Cobb was also one of the game’s most controversial characters. He got in a lot of fights, on and off the field, and was often accused of being overly aggressive. Even his supporters acknowledged that he was a fierce competitor, but he was also widely admired. After his death in 1961, however, his reputation morphed into that of a virulent racist who also hated children and women, and was in turn hated by his peers.

How did this happen? Who is the real Ty Cobb? Setting the record straight, Charles Leerhsen pushed aside the myths, traveled to Georgia and Detroit, and re-traced Cobb’s journey from the shy son of a professor and state senator who was progressive on race for his time to America’s first true sports celebrity. The result is a “noble [and] convincing” (The New York Times Book Review) biography that is “groundbreaking, thorough, and compelling…The most complete, well-researched, and thorough treatment that has ever been written” (The Tampa Tribune).
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