Peter's Reviews > The Big Bam: The Life and Times of Babe Ruth

The Big Bam by Leigh Montville
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's review
Jul 03, 2008

really liked it
bookshelves: non-fiction, baseball, biography
Read in June, 2008

Riveting. If Ruth wasn't bigger than life, he certainly was bigger than baseball. It's strange, because he was a regular guy, loaded with vices and LOUD about them. The writer's back then didn't look to destroy him as they would today. Rather they wrote their stories with the sordid details missing, and the readers were left to fill in the blanks. The readers did so, and the Babe's life became a tapestry of myth, legend, and fact.

And by the way, for all the Tiger Woods, Micheal Jordan, and other superstar "innovators" of the world, they all take a back seat to Babe Ruth. NOBODY did what he did before he did it. He completely changed the way a sport was played. More later.

Okay...just finished it. The ending was quite sad (what a shocker). People took advantage of the Babe. But, on to my quiz for posterity...

1) How did people take advantage of the Babe?

Let me count the ways. First of all, as were all ballplayers at the time, he was bound to his team. No free agency. No "seeing what the market will bear." The owner offered you X, you countered with Y, maybe settled in between, but if you realized what a dog X was to begin with, you would, well do nothing about it because you couldn't.

Enough with the generalities. Ruth demanded the biggest salaries of his day. $10K a year; $30K a year; $50K a year. At his peak, $125K a year. That translates to about the salary of a third-rate shortstop salary in today's dollars. Call it a couple million (ARod makes $30 million a year).

I mentioned the sad ending. All Babe wanted to do when he retired was manage a team. No team in their right mind would hire him in that capacity. The argument always was, "If you can't even manage yourself, how can you manage a team?" Quite true. Ruth was a mess. More on that later. Anyhoo, finally the Boston Braves offer him a position where he has a chance to manage, stock options, and a vice-president moniker. Can any of you see through those smokescreens? Of course, the Babe accepted and the owner promptly reneged on all of it. He was hired to "ride the elephant". He was an attraction. Nothing more.

2) What do you mean...

More later. Baby crying.
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