on May 3, 2007
This book is unlike any other on Babe Ruth, and I have read quite a few most recently Montville's "Big Bam" and Reisler's treatise on the 1920 season. Jenkinson has spent nearly 30 years recreating all of Ruth's long drives, those counted as homers and those that may have just been flyouts. I had no idea that records this detailed could be obtained from Ruth's era, but Jenkinson has read every sportswriting account imaginable for each official game and for hundreds of exhibition (preseason, during season, and postseason) games that Ruth participated in.
I had always labored under the assumption, even after reading all the bios, that many of Ruth's homeruns were simply the product of the short right field at Yankee Stadium. In fact, the Babe hit very few down the right field line; most of his drives were between right-center and left-center field. Right-center was quite a shot in Ruth's day since the fence angled out sharply. The Babe also had tremendous power to the opposite field.
Jenkinson's "spray" diagrams show all the homeruns hit by Ruth and their approximate distances. Aerial photos of the stadiums around Ruth's time are also shown and arrows shown where Babe's longest drives landed.
A second assumption of mine is that Babe did not take care of himself over the years. In fact, the man wanted to exercise more but the Yankee ball club would not let him in order "to save his legs" for the long season. Ruth had taken it upon himself before spring training started, for several seasons, to hire one of the best exercise gurus in New York. The fact that Ruth could keep coming back strong after all his early season illnesses and nagging injuries shows the fortitude of the man. Baseball was his life and he never wanted to let any one down that had come to see him play. He had a remarkable compassion for people that is shown in several places.
The third assumption was that Babe was probably just an average fielder. I had always wondered about what type of fielder he was, and was always surprised that no biography that I read ever mentioned this. In fact he was an elite fielder, one of the best in the game according to Tris Speaker, the premier outfielder of the day. He was also a terrific baserunner until his last five years.
Babe Ruth was one of a kind and he would be a superstar in any era, whether as the great pitcher he was or as an everyday player. Jenkinson does an interesting analysis of how difficult it was for Ruth as opposed to the difficulties faced by today's players. He also has analyzed conservatively how many homeruns the Babe would hit based on today's shrunken stadiums. It will show the sluggers of the past 30 years in a new light. I hope to meet the author someday at the Babe Ruth museum. No one compares to the Bambino.
If you've read "The Big Bam" by Leigh Montville and/or "Babe" by Robert Creamer, you owe it to yourself to read Bill Jenkinson's book. Although you may think it's not possible, Ruth was a better slugger than you ever imagined. He was truly one of a kind.
Jenkinson's book is interesting, fascinating and meticulously well researched. He spent more than 25 years researching each of Ruth's home runs, during spring training, the regular season, post season and on barnstorming tours.
Part of Jenkinson's book details Ruth's "hidden career" of exhibition games. Jenkinson calculates that Ruth participated in 800 exhibition games in six countries, 42 states and more than 200 cities. He blasted more than 300 homers in those games. In 1921, Ruth played an unbelievable total of 207 games. A consummate showman, Ruth kept an incredible schedule, not to mention his off-the-field activities.
Jenkinson focuses on Ruth's power and superlatives. The Bambino didn't hit many routine home runs. Most fans really don't comprehend how spacious the ballparks were in Ruth's days. Jenkinson calculates that Ruth walloped 22 fly outs that traveled more than 450 feet. No one has ever hit as many balls as far as Ruth. What he could do in today's ballparks is unfathomable.
Jenkinson spends 70 pages near the end of the book discussing comparative difficulty of Ruth's home run feats compared to today's game, drawing conclusions and making projections. Stadium photographs showing where some of Ruth's monumental homers landed are particularly interesting and impressive.
on July 23, 2007
Any historian or student of history must engage in countless hours of research in order to convincingly prove his thesis. Mr. Jenkinson succeeds with flying colors. The most fascinating section of this book is the one dealing with comparative difficulty. Jenkinson leaves no doubt that Ruth played under much more adverse conditions than modern day sluggers. I telephoned Mr. Jenkinson about a couple of points of comparison not mentioned in his book that had me wondering. One was the fact that Ruth played against only 7 teams and faced pitchers much more frequently (4-man rotations) than today's players. Could this be considered an advantage for Ruth. Jenkinson replied that after a while it really doesn't matter how often a hitter faces a pitcher. Another point I made was the fact that during day games, which Ruth played exclusively, shadows can hinder the batter's view. Again Jenkinson said that while this may have been a disadvantage for Ruth, the impact would have been negligent.
I must say that his willingness to discuss these issues (and others) with a reader of his fine book only makes his work more appreciated. I am looking forward to his next book.
on August 2, 2011
I've read over a dozen boooks about Babe Ruth. This book is different, and it's great. It covers aspects of Babe Ruth that none of the other books do. Unfortuneately, the pictures don't display well on a kindle (and I have the big kindle), and the "spray diagrams" are virtually unreadable. I own stock in Amazon, I want the kindle to be a success, but it has its limitations. For the money I could have gotten the paperback book, but I'm trying to get used to using the kindle. That's the only reason I give it 4 stars instead of 5.
on September 25, 2012
Highly recommend this book to anyone with an interest in Babe Ruth, the greatest American cultural icon of the 20th century, or with an interest in the baseball history. This well-written and well-researched book documents what many of Babe's contemporaries, including Hall-of-Famers, said about him: "No one like him". Most interesting to me is the documentation of the size of the ballparks that Babe used to play in and hit home runs out of. When I hear modern-day baseball fans compare modern ballplayers to Ruth and say the moderns are better, they clearly don't know about the differences between modern baseball and Ruthian-era baseball that made it -much- more difficult to hit home runs during Ruth's career. This book analyzes those differences, with a particular emphasis on ballpark size. Center-field fences averaged 490 feet from home plate, with some such as Shibe Park in Philly exceeding 500 feet. During Barry Bonds's 73-homer season in 2001, his longest homer was 462 feet, and most of Bonds' homers would have been loud outs in Ruth's day. Ruth regularly hit 500+ foot home runs, which is very rare among today's sluggers, even those players known to have used steroids and other performance-enhancing drugs. Ruth is truly unique and, by far, the greatest baseball player of all time. There never was, and never will be, anyone else like him.
on June 11, 2015
This is a classic, I keep getting new copies because I have been loaning my copies to people, and of course I do not get them back. This book is well researched. Jenkinson crafts this with good writing as well. Babe Ruth is the greatest player baseball has given the world and he just didn't hit.
on January 27, 2016
The Year Babe Ruth hit 104 Home Runs is simply spectacular. For whatever reason (perhaps meriting a book in itself), it seems Baseball fans study, know and quote their favorite statistics more than fans of any other sport. As such, it is only natural that from baseball came all those statistical things now common in other sports such as the Box Score, Lifetime and Season percentage statistics and now Sabermetrics. And because baseball is the Original American team sport, both anecdotal and statistical records exist for it since before the Civil War - Baseball was over half a century old, and common to all American cities, towns and villages before the invention of any of the other major team sports, and played in an organized professional League nearly a half century before any other sport could make the same claim. Because of this long. long history, the heroes and legends of Baseball are strung-out along America's timeline much like the list of American Presidents: Cap Anson, Dan Brouthers, Willie Keeler, Cy Young, Napoleon Lajoie, Willie Keeler, Sam Crawford, Honus Wagner, Ty Cobb - All starting their professional careers well over a century ago. When names more familiar to the casual fan are added such as Babe Ruth, Lour Gehrig, Joe DiMaggio, Ted Williams, Stan Musial, Hank Greenberg, Jackie Robinson, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Hank Aaron, Reggie Jackson, Johnny Bench, Tony Gwynn, and yes even Mark McGuire, Sammy Sosa, and Barry Bonds, the history of baseball itself and the meaning of various events and feats are almost as difficult to comprehend and compare as a general American History student may have in understanding the significance of the Boston Tea Party, the Great Compromise, the Dred Scott Decision, the Spanish-American War, or even the New Deal. Well, when it comes to Babe Ruth, a name anyone who has ever wanted to watched a baseball game will at least have heard mentioned his feats are so storied that modern sceptics probably assume they are pure myth, greatly exaggerated, or that accurate records and record keeping had much to be desired 'way back then'. What Bill Jenkinson has done in this book is to not only destroy those sceptics precepts, but also transform the Babe's ancient statistics into flesh and bone factual recounting that ring as interesting and exciting today as when they first occurred. After reading this book, no one - and I mean NO ONE - could seriously argue against Ruth being the greatest baseball player who ever played the game. So gargantuan, so enormous, so Ruthian are his feats that no fiction writer could think-up a more powerful baseball hero. What's more, his attention to detail and recovery of old facts show that by modern standards, Ruth's feats are Understated by almost as large a margin as current Baseball stars feats are overstated. If we could somehow transport Ruth in his Prime to the modern era, and allow him all the modern benefits of scientific medicine and fitness, the professionally honed advice of modern baseball trainers and coaches, the convenience of modern air travel, luxury hotel accommodations, and the relative coziness of modern ballparks it is impossible to imagine the Star Wars numbers he would generate. Given just a decade in the modern era, he would probably shatter by a hundred Barry Bonds/Hank Aaron's HR number, to say nothing of the Runs, RBIs, Slugging Percent, and OBPS; and maybe even unthrone Cobb for Average. Indeed, if Erich Von Daniken was a Baseball fan and read this book, he would probably make an argument that Ruth had been abducted by aliens and had been infused with some sort of Super-Human DNA. As a 10 year-old kid one of my first 'adult' book purchases was the Baseball Encyclopedia, which I read and studied all the time with joy. It was a must have for any serious baseball fan. To that I would add just two books: The Glory of Their Times by Lawrence Ritter, and The Year Babe Ruth Hit 104 Home Runs. You will find yourself referring to it almost as much as the other two.
on March 29, 2008
Its great to be able to read a book that has taken so many , many hours of labor and yielded so much useful information.
After reading the detailed analyses and descriptions in this book it is hard to argue the conclusion that Babe Ruth hit the ball harder and farther than anyone else-- with his much-too-heavy bat reducing bat speed and no weight training, much less artificial enhancements ala MC Quire and Bonds. Even on steroids, the latter two cannot touch the Bambino for 450 foot + shots. Its not even close. And consider Babe routinely bombed 400 --475 + footers that were fly outs in the huge old fields of the 20s and 30s--
So the truth actually transcscends the myth-- Ruth was better than his legend.
With some aerobic work and strength training, modern medical care, a lighter bat, modern day fields and the DH rule...
on January 21, 2008
I have a great amount of respect for what Bill Jenkinson has done hear, spending over 25 years of his life doing very, very difficult research. Bill researched most of this book the old-fashioned way, going to libraries and tracking down the people who lived during the life and times of Babe Ruth. It's really a remarkable achievement that he deserves to be praised for.
My favorite parts of the book are the later chapters, in which Jenkinson takes a more of a stance on the issues: How did race play a role, equipment issues, rule changes, etc. This is where the true marvel of this book is finally realized. Simply put, that Babe Ruth was the greatest baseball player ever. PERIOD. No arguments (even from a Red Sox fan. Well...maybe Ted Williams... :)
The first-hand recollections really stand out, as do Jenkinson's journeys to find the facts. His conclusions (which I won't share here) are astounding, and only add to the legend.
My only negative, which unfortunately for me was a big one, is that the first 100+ pages really drag. It's a lot of day-by-day accounts of Ruth's batting performances, which after a few seasons of reading, is pretty tedious. I liked some of it, moreso when there were stories included within the sections. Obviously, some people will like this section, I however, did not. It'd be safe to say that I enjoyed the story sections, and Jenkinson's theories/facts/conclusions much more.
on February 4, 2008
This was not, strictly speaking, a biography. Nonetheless, I found it gave me a fresh perspective on not only Babe Ruth's career, but also the man. Mr. Jenkinson has exhaustively analysed Babe Ruth's career and, incredibly, tracked down each of his home runs, including to the extent possible those hit in exhibition games. The book's title comes from his simple and convincing assertion that outfield dimensions have shrunk to the extent that the Babe would have had 104 home runs in 1921 had outfields been the size of today's ball parks, plus a handful from rule changes. Interesting enough, but for me the great joy of the book comes from Mr. Jenkinson's efforts to account for other changes in the conditions under which Ruth played.
The most interesting of these was the extent to which the Babe devoted himself to his role as a public icon. Yes, he was a man who saw no reason to curb his various appetites. But in Mr. Jenkinson's study he was also a man who gave himself to his fans to a degree we cannot fathom today. Taking nothing away from the most unselfish of today's stars, they could not touch the Babe's dedication to serving the fans even if they wanted to. Constant travel to exhibition games, even during the season, barnstorming to small towns around the country (or Hawaii or even Japan) during the off-season, and endless autographs were only the tip of the iceberg. The Babe was swamped by children everywhere he went, Gulliver sometimes literally toppled to the crowd by the Lilliputians -- and always apparently returning their love ten-fold.
The other aspect of Ruth's career that is so helpfully illuminated by Mr. Jenkinson is his history of ailments, or rather the history of inadequate medical care and poor training regimens provided by the Yankees. Although it is impossible to prove in the same way as his home run analysis, Mr. Jenkinson makes a persuasive case that Ruth was terribly ill-served throughout his career and probably had his career somewhat shortened as a result.