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69 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly Ruthian effort from Montville
It takes some nerve to write a biography of Ruth, given that there are already 20+ books in which he's the main focus. However, Montville has done more than find a niche in a crowded field - he has written what should be remembered as one of the best, most comprehensive, and authoritative biographies of baseball's biggest legend.

From the beginning, Montville...
Published on May 3, 2006 by Craig

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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Entertaining Account of the Bambino
I've not read the other biographies of Ruth, but this is the most recent and is well researched. Montville explains Ruth's national charisma as well as the emotional immaturity that at times threatened his career. The emotional immaturity and charisma seemed to go hand in hand. Of course the key to the charisma was Ruth's revolutionary good performance. A fly ball at...
Published on July 21, 2011 by CJA


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69 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A truly Ruthian effort from Montville, May 3, 2006
It takes some nerve to write a biography of Ruth, given that there are already 20+ books in which he's the main focus. However, Montville has done more than find a niche in a crowded field - he has written what should be remembered as one of the best, most comprehensive, and authoritative biographies of baseball's biggest legend.

From the beginning, Montville makes it clear that he's not going to fall into the trap of speculating about Babe's early days, a trap into which too many biographers tend to fall. The opening chapter deals with his time before the famous years he spent at St. Mary's in a creative but no-nonsense manner that sets the tone for the rest of the book.

As he did in his biography of Ted Williams, Montville has done exhaustive research to find voices from Ruth's day, in an effort to create a full picture of that era. He freely discusses past efforts at chronicling Ruth, praising especially Creamer's book, the one to which I would compare this effort. He knows he's not breaking a lot of new ground, and he has obviously done his work about what has already been written.

The book is comprehensive without being boring or overlong, and even those already knowledgable about Ruth's outsized life will likely still learn something. Montville's writing is crisp, and the pages move very quickly for a biography.

This is an oustanding biography worthy of its subject, one that will be enjoyed by even those who aren't normally fans of baseball. Ruth was much bigger than the game, and I think this book will appeal to more than just diehard fans. Montville is now batting a perfect 2-for-2 when it comes to chronicling the biggest names in the game.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Definitive Biography of Babe Ruth, May 22, 2006
By 
Bill Emblom "Bill Emblom" (Ishpeming, Michigan USA) - See all my reviews
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Leigh Montville provided us with the definitive biography of Ted Williams, and has now provided us with another masterpiece on Babe Ruth. I have several biographies of Ruth, but this one is the best. Montville does a wonderful job in describing how a crude individual from the city of Baltimore's St. Mary's Industrial School who was denied many things in his younger years was like a beagle turned loose in a swamp when he got out on his own to become a baseball player. The nocturnal delights of the big city were beckoning Ruth to burn the candle at both ends. Oh, but what a wonderful glow! Marriage proved to be a failure for Ruth since he didn't have the self discipline to live up to the vows. The trade to the Yankees to begin the 1920 season provided The Babe with more of the nighttime prowling he enjoyed, but the statistics he garnered proved he was in a league of his own in regard to battering a baseball. The 1925 season was a low point for Ruth as he fought with manager Miller Huggins, and was out of shape due to his off the field activities. He turned over a new leaf to start the 1926 season, and with Lou Gehrig now batting behind him Ruth had his best years still ahead of him. Montville does a masterful job describing the sad decline of Ruth in his post baseball life when no job opened up to him of any consequence with the Yankees or with any other team. Hunting, fishing, bowling, and golf were his passions once his baseball career was over, but he never lost his longing to return to the diamond in a meaningful capacity. That chance, however, never came. The Babe was only 53 when he died on August 16, 1948. On page 355 the author lists Ty Cobb, Honus Wagner, and Christy Mathewson as the first inductees to the Baseball Hall of Fame in addition to Ruth. Walter Johnson should also have been listed. This book on Ruth in addition to the recent book entitled "Clemente" by David Maraniss have to be two of the very best biographies on baseball or any other individual for this year.
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25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you love baseball and The Babe don't miss this excellent book!!, May 3, 2006
By 
Big Mike (Bradford, West Yorkshire United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
After reading Robert Creamer's wonderful biography of The Babe, I didn't truly believe that there would be another one that would ever even approach it. However, Leigh Montville has written and researched a book that comes very close to at least equaling it. Apparently, it was also based upon some recently discovered sources such as letters, etc. There are also many wonderful photographs, some rarely seen or published before in any form.

For anyone who really loves baseball and The Babe, any new material or facts or photos of the legendary, one-and-only Bambino all combine to make The Big Bam: The Life and Times of Babe Ruth a must have for any fan of Babe Ruth, the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees and baseball itself. Highly recommended!!
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The greatest hitter of all--took it like a man!!!, March 1, 2008
This review is from: The Big Bam: The Life and Times of Babe Ruth (Paperback)
If you like historical accounts of baseball, this is a must read for you. There are accounts in this book about the most famous player to ever hit, Babe Ruth, that will make you wonder how he even survived to become the legend he did. Babe Ruth did not get a "cookie cutter" road to becoming the great hitter he became. IN His first years of professional baseball he was taunted, harassed, and insulted by virtually every possible means available to the other players. His nickname cannot even be mentioned in this review because it was so terrible. He was set up and fell for every trick in the book, and was the [...] of every joke because he was so innocent (in those ways of the world). In this book, you learn about the "young man" who becomes a legend, dispite the mean and cruel way he is treated. This young man, from St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys was freed by a Jack Dunn, a baseball guy from Baltimore. Ruth could hit as well as he could pitch. No one really explains where these talents ever develop, but the book mentions this legend (Ruth) as being extremely crude and racially motivated by anything that moved. Far from a gentleman, and never caring about it anyway, gradually he becomes recognized as one of the greatest hitters of all time. This initiation, into a most popular sport in the world's biggest city, turns out to be exactly what he needs to be molded into the world's greatest player. Babe Ruth knew how to live life in and out of baseball. He took everything everyone threw at him, and somehow became the greatest of the greats. This is an amazing tale of how a great one is made through saw dust and blade cutting, unlike say that of Joe D or Mickey. Ruth took all the pot shots, and learned to fire them right back. Nothing got to him, nothing. You have got to read this book, it is fantastic!!!! 10 stars. guyairey
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Achilles in Pinstripes, May 26, 2008
This review is from: The Big Bam: The Life and Times of Babe Ruth (Paperback)
Leigh Montville's The Big Bam is an exhaustively researched book on the life and times of Babe Ruth. Even for the non-sports fan, this book reads like the best of fiction, with a huge personality at its center and a fascinating exploration of how that personality influenced a generation of post war Americans. Entertaining and informative, Montville never shirks from probing into the faults and flaws of this iconic athlete. The book's triumph is in its evocation of supreme glory fading away with time, age, and illness. A milestone biography of a fascinating and elusive personality.

Donald Gallinger is the author of The Master Planets
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brings the Bambino to life, August 10, 2006
By 
N. Bonner (Philadelphia, PA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
When my daughter saw me reading this book she exclaimed, "Don't you know everything about Babe Ruth already?" Well, even if I thought I did, this book made me aware of how little I knew. I had read most of the previous biographies from Tom Meany's to Robert Creamer's. But Leigh Montville's book is the last word on Ruth. What an enormous amount of research he put in, yet he did not let the material overwhelm his subject. The Babe comes through in living color. I don't think any player has ever captured the imagination of the American public more or has been treated more shabbily by the sport he enhanced. I think one reason that Babe Ruth continues to be the gold standard to baseball fans is because, unlike the spoiled players of today who make millions of dollars a year and charge for an autograph, Babe loved being "Babe Ruth." He made appearances for kids, he autographed baseballs, he autographed $20 bills. He gave as much as he received both on and off the field.

I especially liked the way Montville used interviews from other players to bring Babe to life. One of the most poignant passages in the book describes Babe's last game in Pittsburgh. Montville tells the story from the points of view of the opposing pitchers. The Pirates' pitchers thought Babe was washed up and were planning how they were going to pitch to him. One of Babe's former teammates warns them to pitch around him, but they don't listen. Babe hit three home runs in that games. The book is filled with jewels like this.

There are people who do research. And there are people who write well. But not too many can put the package together. Leigh Montville hits a grand slam here.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Big Bam Makes My Team, April 11, 2007
By 
Bookworm Plus "Bill C." (Redondo Beach, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Big Bam: The Life and Times of Babe Ruth (Paperback)
Author Leigh Montville's goal in the "The Big Bam" (one of the Babe's more obscure nicknames) is to portray the hidden Babe Ruth. In fact, trying to see through the fog of his life to get at the truth of his origins and life is a constant theme. For such a visible character in American history, there are huge gaps of understanding of aspects of Ruth such as his parents, childhood, first marriage, and illnesses. Montville has a tough act to follow because Robert Creamer wrote the definitive Ruth biography back in the seventies. The question in my mind was if it would be worth the time to read a new version. The answer is "Yes" because Montville does offer new insights on Ruth's life and what made him tick as we learn about a boy of seemingly limited prospects who turned out to have an innate athleticism that could blossom in the modern world with its widening entertainment and media establishment to become one of America's icons.

The subtitle of the book is the "Life and Times" of Babe Ruth and the reader does get an excellent view of the Babe in the context of the times and his wild ride through fame. Besides his life as a major league ballplayer, there is a lot of interesting information such as Ruth's off season activities, post-season barnstorming tours, speculation that he had a disorder such as ADD, the marketing of a superstar in his era, foreign travel, and of course, women and more women. Ruth's post-player life was very disappointing (as is the case with many athletes) as he tried to find a place for himself in the world. His post-career life was by no means pathetic, but his best days were obviously behind him. Most galling to him was that no major league team would fulfill his ambition to become a Manager and the book winds down with the anti-climactic last years of his life that ended in cancer at the age of fifty-three. For a reader's first biography of Babe Ruth I recommend Creamer's book, but "The Big Bam" is an excellent choice for a second look.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Must have book for baseball fans, April 8, 2007
By 
Jonathan M (Louisville, KY) - See all my reviews
This is one of the best books written about baseball's greatest legend. I loved the way Leigh Montville tells the story of a kid that grew up to be the most beloved and admired player in baseball. Leigh makes you cheer, smile, cringe and even get sad as he narrates the life story of The Babe. Towards the end of the book, even though you know what's going to happen, the books makes you wish it had a different ending. I wished The Babe was still with us.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fresh look into the life of Babe Ruth, May 31, 2006
By 
Bookreporter (New York, New York) - See all my reviews
While Barry Bonds and his home-run hitting brethren have followed the "better living through science" route to fame, Babe Ruth did things the old-fashioned way: booze, babes and BAM! It seems every time a contemporary baseballist threatens to bypass Ruth's 714 home runs, someone comes out with a new book in an attempt to a) reacquaint the public with the Bambino (for the historically-minded of us); or b) try to make a quick buck (for the cynical). When Henry Aaron hit #715 in 1974, for example, four such volumes hit the stores in the space of a year.

After 32 years, Leigh Montville, whose thoughtful 2004 opus on Ted Williams was a bestseller, continues the trend with THE BIG BAM: The Life and Times of Babe Ruth. Like the Williams book, Montville stays away from earlier biographies that focused mostly on the ballplayer's life on the field. This new look at an old icon is neither outrageously statistical (bogged down by numbers and detail) nor scholarly (bogged down by references), and as such is a welcome middle-of-the-road offering.

The author, a former senior writer for Sports Illustrated, makes no bones about it when he states that this particular Babe book is meant for the ESPN generation while he marvels at the discretion used by the sportswriters of Ruth's era. Where adulatory volumes of previous generations would never even imply the extracurricular activities of its heroes, Montville casts them in muted tones. "The Babe was an ultimate test in writing and reporting," he notes. "What to leave in? What to leave out? His pleasure-dominated life constantly put him in questionable situations. Was it news that he was drunk again late at night? Was it news that he had been with one, two, three women who were not his wife?"

"This was not material for the paper," he continues. "Should it have been? The curtain of good taste covered the situation...The writers pounded away with their similes and allusions, constructed their grand rococo word sculptures, truly florid and inventive stuff. They worked within their limits."

Montville posits that New York was, in fact, the only city in which George Herman Ruth could truly have morphed into The Babe, the poster boy for a post-World War I generation eager to start living big again. Boston, where he began his big league career, was full of loyal, even rabid, admirers but woefully lacking in the kind of buzz that helped secure Ruth's reputation.

Montville admits his book must be read through a shroud of fog. Many details of Ruth's early life will always remain a mystery: his actual date of birth (there's a year's discrepancy that the author frequently tosses out: He was "xx" years old, but thought he was "xx+1"...It gets a bit annoying after the third or fourth time); the circumstances surrounding his placement at the St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys in Baltimore; his ethnic heritage; his first marriage. As the reader moves along the Ruth continuum, the facts are less questionable.

Anyone who has read about the Babe knows about his frequent run-ins with Yankees management and his subsequent promises to reform. One interesting chapter credits one of his frequent rehabilitations to Artie McGovern, a relatively unheralded spear carrier and a prototype fitness guru who virtually whipped the ballplayer into the best shape of his career.

Other bios focus on certain details of Ruth's career, such as his up-and-down relationship with teammate Lou Gehrig. Montville gives nods to such events, but does not overly dwell on them, leaving them for the scholars and nitpickers. Instead, he concentrates on wide strokes, which are quite adequate, even for such a figure.

--- Reviewed by Ron Kaplan
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nicely Done - Paints Vivid Picture of Era, June 1, 2006
I thought the author did a very good job at revisiting one of the most fascinating lives of all time. I have read most of the biographies of Babe Ruth by his ghostwriters and heirs and perhaps even his heirs' ghostwriters and I think the best of all of them is the one written by Robert Creamer. However, in fairness to Mr. Montville, when Mr. Creamer's book came out he had access to a broader spectrum of insights because many of the people who knew the Babe well were still alive.

Mr. Montville does an exceptional job of providing a fresh perspective regarding other events occurring during Ruth's rise to fame, including the post World War I boom years, the prohibition era, the end of the silent movies, and Lindburgh's flight. He did not need to spend a lot of time providing background information for the benefit of the readers. Instead, he was able to describe the era so well because the Babe interacted with anyone who was anyone back then personally. Although he probably did not remember their names, he really did not need to because the movers and shakers of the late 20s wanted to impress him!

I have a hard time envisioning us reading about any of today's athletes in the year 2060!
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The Big Bam: The Life and Times of Babe Ruth
The Big Bam: The Life and Times of Babe Ruth by Leigh Montville (Paperback - May 1, 2007)
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