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 BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR:The Boston Globe | Publishers Weekly | Kirkus | Newsweek | The Philadelphia Inquirer | The ProgressiveWinner of the 2019 SABR Seymour Medal | Finalist for the PEN/ESPN Literary Sports Writing Award | Longlisted for Spitball Magazine’s Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year | Finalist for the NBCC Award for Biography“Leavy’s newest masterpiece…. A major work of American history by an author with a flair for mesmerizing story-telling.” —ForbesHe 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.
Jane Leavy, award-winning former sportswriter and feature writer for the Washington Post, is author of the New York Times bestsellers Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy, The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and theEnd of America’s Childhood, and the comic novel Squeeze Play. She lives in Washington, D.C. and Truro, Massachusetts.
Table of Contents
Prologue June 13, 1902, Baltimore 1
Chapter 1 October 10, Providence 13
Chapter 2 October 10, Aboard the New York Central to Manhattan 33
Chapter 3 October 11, Trenton 57
Chapter 4 October 12, Cityline 89
Chapter 5 October 13, Asbury Park 119
Chapter 6 October 13-14, Aboard the Manhattan Limited to Lima 141
Chapter 7 October 15, Kansas City, Missouri 167
Chapter 8 October 16, Omaha 187
Chapter 9 October 17, Aboard the Rock Island Line to Des Moines 215
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