- Hardcover: 656 pages
- Publisher: Harper; 1st Edition edition (October 16, 2018)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0062380222
- ISBN-13: 978-0062380227
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1.6 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 23 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #790 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created Hardcover – October 16, 2018
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“Magnificent.... All this is only to touch on the wealth of research, detail and astuteness of observation that make up The Big Fella. Some of it is sad.... But the winning side of the Babe’s life predominates in these pages and in history.” (The Wall Street Journal)
“Engaging.... Sifts through the myths.... Leavy shines light on Ruth’s place in American cultural history. She paints a sensitive and humorous portrait of a flamboyant figure who exploited technological transformations, public appetites and his athletic prowess to forge a new sporting celebrity.” (Washington Post)
“Captures Ruth’s outsize influence on American sport and culture.... Leavy’s conceit allows her to stake out some untrod turf. But she also makes a compelling case that to appreciate the adulation Ruth soaked up in October 1927 is to understand his contribution to American life in full.” (New York Times Book Review)
“Leavy’s newest masterpiece ... delivers all the goods again. Meticulously researched over eight years and richly detailed, it’s as close as we’ll ever come to meeting the legend and watching him in action. The Big Fella is a must-read for Babe Ruth fans, baseball history buffs, and collectors. Above all, it is a major work of American history by an author with a flair for mesmerizing story-telling. (Forbes)
“There have been numerous books written about the enormous life of Babe Ruth.... Jane Leavy, though, manages to mine new material in her wonderful book.... Ultimately, Leavy provides a different perspective of a man who consistently broke the mold in sports and society.” (Chicago Tribune)
“An editor of mine once told me that each generations deserves its own biography of a historic figured, and we now have ours for Babe Ruth…Offers depth and nuance to the Bambino’s character….Leavy convincingly shows how Ruth embodied the Jazz Age, rebelling against all constraints both on and off the field while serving as the precursor to Michael Jordan, LeBron James, and the other athletes who would become multimedia conglomerates.” (Boston Globe)
“Leavy always entertains, injecting necessary context about a sport that was just beginning to become a major advertising and marketing vehicle. She also evokes sympathy for the Babe ... without excusing his sins and excesses. Leavy brings the larger-than-life slugger down to the size of a real human being.” (New York Magazine)
“Jane Leavy could write the biography of a tube of toothpaste and I’d be first in line to buy it. Jane Leavy on Babe Ruth? Home run! Think you know the Babe? Not a chance—not until you read The Big Fella.” (Jonathan Eig, author of Ali and Luckiest Man)
“Leavy has cleared the bases with a compelling account of the game’s greatest, Babe Ruth. Leavy brilliantly describes the complexities that accompany an elite talent and the blessing and curse of stardom while documenting the essential role of an attorney to provide vision, create a protective umbrella, and facilitate the most important goal for a unique athlete: self-understanding.” (Scott Boras, attorney for Major League Baseball Players)
“Jane Leavy writing a book about Babe Ruth is the biggest thing that has happened in my life since Santa Claus visited my classroom in the second grade. This is Babe Ruth off the diamond and out of uniform, a very flawed human being but still very much a hero, a man who could lift an army of beggars and wannabes onto his back and carry them to their dreams.” (Bill James, Baseball Writer)
About the Author
Jane Leavy is an award-winning former sportswriter and feature writer for the Washington Post. She is the author of Sandy Koufax and the comic novel Squeeze Play, called “the best novel ever written about baseball” by Entertainment Weekly. She lives in Washington, D.C.
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Unfortunately, my overall opinion of The Big Fella is that it is just an average read and one that, unlike my experience with Leavy's previous books, I found to be very easy to put down -- and not pick up again -- for fairly long stretches of time. This stems mainly from my opinion that Leavy tried to include so many aspects from her research about "The Big Fella" and her thesis of "the world he created" that the book read more like a very long research paper than an attention-holding personal account of The Babe and how he lived his life.
Don't get me wrong. I don't consider The Big Fella to be a bad book. To the contrary, I'm glad I read it, as there are many interesting facts interspersed throughout the book that I learned about Babe Ruth and the influence he had on the times in which he played, as well as after his playing days were over. However, the style in which the book was written kept me from being engrossed enough in the information presented to consider it to be more than just an average book.
I received an advance eBook of The Big Fella to review from Edelweiss and the publisher.
I am happy to report that THE BIG FELLA may be her best work yet. The topic is obviously not as personal to the author; she has been quite frank in her admiration for Mantle (at least until she had the opportunity to actually meet him while working on that book) and Koufax (the most iconic Jewish athlete for her generation), both of whom she had the chance to witness on the diamond. Babe Ruth, on the other hand, preceded her experience by a couple of generations.
What she lacks in that “connection” is more than compensated for by her monumental research. In 1995, I delivered a paper titled “The Books on the Babe,” an overview of several biographies about the Hall of Famer, at Hofstra University during a centennial celebration of Ruth. None of the titles I mentioned --- including Robert Creamer’s seminal BABE: The Legend Comes to Life, which generally has been accepted as the definitive work on the subject --- comes close to THE BIG FELLA.
There are a couple of reasons for this. For one thing, Leavy does not cover much of the action on the field; those details have been done over and over again. She starts off each chapter with coverage of a barnstorming trip that Ruth undertook with Lou Gehrig in 1927. This is her way of explaining the impact that the Bambino had on the country, which did not have a chance to see him play in the handful of Major League cities at the time. She goes into further detail on his off-the-field antics, including his childhood and upbringing --- the topic of much discrepancy over the years --- as well as his “making up for lost time” in indulging his many appetites.
Recall that this was the Roaring Twenties, a time following World War I when the country was letting loose: jazz, flappers, bootleg liquor during a time of Prohibition. And no one was more of a poster boy for that attitude than Babe Ruth, who was the first professional athlete to really capitalize. He engaged what might be considered the first sports agent to negotiate his numerous endorsements and appearances, activities that earned him as much as, if not more than, the salary he received during his peak years with the New York Yankees.
Ruth also might be credited with making the sports section a major part of the many newspapers of the day (major metropolitan areas often had several different papers printing multiple editions during the course of the day), and making those who covered the game superstars in their own right. It might be hard to fathom in this post-paparazzi world, but back in the day, the media rarely reported on Ruth’s domestic life, his affairs and the drinking. Nowadays there might be entire cable channels devoted to his exploits. That’s not to say the press didn’t know about them, but it was a more genteel time.
Another key note to giving THE BIG FELLA a different perspective is the availability of and access to research materials that have improved tremendously since Creamer’s book was published in 1974. Leavy deserves all possible credit not just in uncovering these gems, but also in presenting them in a lively and entertaining manner.
With Mantle, Koufax and now Ruth in her oeuvre, one has to wonder if there’s a fourth legend for Leavy to add to her baseball Mount Rushmore.
Reviewed by Ron Kaplan