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A year after crunching 60 home runs, the Babe set out to make a few extra bucks by telling his story, but he tells much more than that. Despite his almost childlike persona, Ruth was a remarkably astute observer of the game and strategic tactician; he was no mere one-dimensional player. His analyses of pitching and hitting and contemporary players' talents in the field and at the plate remain as solid today as they were then. He intuited what the modern number crunchers have borne out.
As much fun as Ruth's opinionated prose still is to read, the added delight in an ancient text like this is the language itself and how it's changed in the ensuing decades. Ruth drops colloquialisms in the way he used to deposit hanging curveballs into the right-field stands; 70 years later, it's like being able to run free after hours in the Slang Museum. Well-dressed ballplayers are "the glass of fashion," a pitcher who's easy to hit is a "cousin," anyone who talks a lot is a "barber," and big boppers like the Babe weren't power hitters, they were "smart hitters" or "swing hitters," as opposed to "choke hitters"--as in choking-up on the bat, not failing in the clutch.
"I'm proud of my record in baseball," Ruth says, "and I'd be ungrateful to say otherwise. Every time I drive in a run, every time I hit a ball over the fence or hear the cheers of the bleacher fans ringing in my ears I get a great kick." Babe's Own Book still has a knack for giving readers a kick, as well. --Jeff Silverman