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Babe: The Legend Comes to Life
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Lance (sportsbookguy) | 12566 comments Mod
Discussion thread for "Babe: The Legend Comes to Life" - one of June's Books of the Month


message 2: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 02, 2017 11:51AM) (new)

I am half-way through this book now. I have not read it since maybe 1980, so I am taking my time to enjoy it. I think this book should be required reading for anyone who wants to even consider baseball or 20th century America. It was and still is the definitive text on the Babe.

Having not read it in so long, I am continually surprised when I find things that have become accepted parts of Babe lore. Remember, this was the first "adult" book written on the Babe in which the sheets were pulled back and his life was examined with all it's warts. Everything written about the Babe after this either copies or expands on what Creamer wrote.

The other thing to remember is that this was written in 1974 when a lot of teammates and opponents and friends of the Babe were still around to tell the real story. Creamer does a good job of noting when certain stories might be apocryphal and trying to get conformation on certain fantastic stories.


Lance (sportsbookguy) | 12566 comments Mod
Thanks for letting us know this, Doug. Now that I know that this book was the "original", for lack of a better word, this sounds even better.


message 4: by D.H. (new)

D.H. Jonathan I read this book about four years ago when I was thinking about writing a YA time travel series. In the first book, the main kid is at a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. He doesn't yet know he has the ability to jump back in time, and his friend shows him a picture of Babe Ruth's called shot and asks him to imagine being at that game. The next thing our heroes know is that they have suddenly appeared at Game 3 of the 1932 World Series. I actually started writing the main story, but I abandoned it after a couple of chapters. I still don't remember why. Maybe it's because the plot after the game, with some of the Chicago gangsters, got a little too much for me.

Anyway, I read this one and a book just on that Called Shot, and I remember liking the book a lot. I still have my copy somewhere, but, since we've moved since then, it's probably in a box in the garage.


message 5: by [deleted user] (new)

I just finished the "called shot" section last night. Creamer doesn't say one way or the other if it happens, which is probably good because no one will ever know. He presents the so-called facts which were published in the newspapers the next few days, then presents what the participants, including Cubs catcher Hartnett and pitcher Root (who denied it until the day he died), said in interviews over the years--some of which changed with the telling.

Also, he mentions that Babe's story of the event also changed several times. He concludes with what Ford Frick said the Babe told him in a candid moment years later: basically he didn't say he did and he didn't say he didn't. He leaves the reader with the impression that the Babe knew a good thing when he saw it and didn't want to mess with a great legend.

But Creamer also leaves the reader with the opinion that it really doesn't matter, and is now a hopeless exercise to argue the facts of if he indeed pointed right to the centerfield stands, said something along the lines of "I'm hitting the next pitch there," and then did it--as was shown in both the William Bendix and John Goodman fiascos called movies--but states that the REAL facts which are indisputable are that 1) there was an extremely large amount of trash talking going back and forth between mostly the Babe and the Cubs and Chicago fans, 2) there were 2 strikes, 3) with 2 strikes the Babe said something not very nicely to the pitcher and 4) he then hit a home run (and not just any home run, it was generally accepted to be either the longest or second longest ever hit in Wrigley to that point).

Creamer didn't have access to a film which I think surfaced years later which shows the Babe making some sort of gesture in the general direction of the pitcher or the outfield.

I think Montville and the recent book on the called shot go into more detail.


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

And btw, DH. That sounds like a great plot. You should get back to it.


message 7: by [deleted user] (new)

Finishing up a very enjoyable reading of Creamer's book. It's been decades, but the Babe's story never ceases to amaze me. I am also rereading Leigh Montville's The Big Bam at the same time to compare.

Montville's book was written 30 years after Creamer and he was given boxes of the original interview transcripts of Creamer's work by Creamer (they both worked for SI and knew each other). Montville's book is more entertaining due to his great writing style, but there is very little new material that was not included by Creamer. This leaves me wondering what Jane Leavy could possibly add with her proposed new Babe book.

A couple of things strike me about the Babe that everybody should know (but we sometimes take for granted):

He was not only a pitcher, but the best left-handed pitcher in the game for two years--in an era of great pitching. He threw NINE shutouts one year, a league record for lefties that stood as long as his home run record. And of course his World Series scoreless inning streak of 29 was another great pitching record.

As a hitter, you have to adjust some of his batting averages in the '20s with the realization that everybody was hitting .300 those years, but the home runs when adjusted for the norm at the time are unbelievable. One year he had more home runs than 14 of the other 15 TEAMS.

Also, he was not the fat, slow bumbler he has been made out to be. He stole as many as 17 or 18 bases some seasons. Once in a World Series game he stole second and third in the same inning.

And in a time decades before anyone appreciated on base percentage, the Babe often was over .500 due to drawing 120-150 walks a year.

As far as the book goes, like I said earlier, this was the first time it was told in print what Babe was really like off the field. Creamer does a good job with the quotes from teammates and opponents letting the reader know how his contemporaries viewed him and doesn't hold back or soft-peddle any of his vices.


message 8: by [deleted user] (last edited Jun 09, 2017 08:49AM) (new)

Another comment on the relationship between Babe Ruth and Leo Durocher--this one could go under this topic or the Leo book topic at the same time.

Creamer reports in two sections of the animosity between the two. Ruth sometimes was quick to anger and impetuous, but he rarely seemed to have lifelong conflicts, often joking with those he had recently fought with. Leo, on the other hand, was a man who knew how to hold a grudge.

After Durocher was traded from the Yankees, the two were thrown together again in 1938 when Larry MacPhail, in an effort to boost sagging attendance, made Babe a Dodger coach for the last half of the season. His job was to mainly appear in a uniform, sometimes take batting practice for fans, make personal appearances on behalf of the Dodgers and sometimes coach first base.

The Dodger manager at the time was Burleigh Grimes, but everyone seemed to understand that the shortstop and captain, Durocher, was going to inherit the manager's job the next season.

According to Creamer all the players and coaches and front office people loved having Babe around, listening to his stories and soaking in his aura--all except Durocher who still hated him. Leo seemed to never miss a chance to tell people how useless and how stupid Ruth was and how much he didn't understand about the game and openly mocked Ruth's inability to understand or give signals as a coach (in his duties he was bypassed as far as giving signals).

Obviously a player as good as Ruth knew something about the game and was not so stupid he could not remember signs (a charge that Leo later leveled at Ernie Banks).

They had one serious loud argument in the clubhouse--initiated by Leo--in which Durocher was held back from taking a swing at Ruth.

It has been written elsewhere that Durocher was the only man in baseball Babe Ruth didn't really like and that may be close to the truth (although the book says Red Sox teammates Smokey Joe Wood and Tris Speaker treated him with much disdain, it doesn't say how he felt about them).


message 9: by Dave (last edited Jun 11, 2017 03:54AM) (new)

Dave Jordan | 113 comments Doug, I found this while fact-checking the D'Acquisto book. Dunno if this was around while you were doing the Fisk book or even the Fidrych bio, but Newspapers.com has become an amazing resource, I know Marty Appel used it a lot for his Casey book, Jeff Pearlman is surfing through it for his upcoming USFL book and I believe (from what I've been told) Jane is doing the same for her Babe book (although I have to agree 100% on first looks - what else can be said about Ruth?)

What I believe you're going to see (and not simply in sports books) is a "reboot" of sorts for many biographies now that newspapers.com becomes more utilized. The access to accurate, primary-source information there is outstanding.


message 10: by [deleted user] (new)

Thanks Dave. That certainly puts alot of info at anybody's fingertips. I will still be impressed if Jane finds anything else on the Babe to add.


message 11: by [deleted user] (new)

Another fact about Babe that contradicts the man-on-the-street's image of the beer-guzzling, hot dog-munching fat slob is that he was actually one of the first pro athletes to have a personal trainer to keep him in shape.

After his disastrous 1925 season, which was highlighted by the bellyache heard around the world, he became a devotee of a gym in New York City run by a former boxer. He used this faithfully for the rest of his career. While almost all the other players of the time had to work other jobs during the winter, Babe made enough money that he didn't need to and had the time to work out.

This is what allowed him to post big numbers until he was almost 40 (without using steroids).


Harold Kasselman | 17528 comments D.H. wrote: "I read this book about four years ago when I was thinking about writing a YA time travel series. In the first book, the main kid is at a Cubs game at Wrigley Field. He doesn't yet know he has the a..."
I read a fun book for young adults called the M and M boys about the 61 season; it's fiction but it has a lot of historical facts in it.(It isn't a time travel-it takes place in 61.
https://www.amazon.com/M-BOYS-Lara-Re...


Harold Kasselman | 17528 comments Doug wrote: "I just finished the "called shot" section last night. Creamer doesn't say one way or the other if it happens, which is probably good because no one will ever know. He presents the so-called facts w..."
The Paul Dickson book on Leo and a documentary I saw claims Babe was merely pointing to the Cubs and saying "that's only two boys"


Harold Kasselman | 17528 comments Doug wrote: "Another comment on the relationship between Babe Ruth and Leo Durocher--this one could go under this topic or the Leo book topic at the same time.

Creamer reports in two sections of the animosity ..."

I guess it all started with the stolen watch accusation(which I believe) but perhaps mutual jealousy. Leo never liked to be overlooked and on the Yankees, it was easy to get overlooked. As for Ruth's dislike, he felt Leo was a loud mouth Mr. No hit America or some words to that effect. But the way Leo treated Babe when in 38 reminds me of how he treated Banks-again someone who had the hearts and spotlight of their cities.


message 15: by [deleted user] (new)

But Babe did enjoy some of Leo's unique talents. In Nice Guys Finish Last, Leo notes that some of the Yankees, especially Babe, used to put him up to torpedoing particular opponents with his wit and vocal cords.

Ruth was supposedly behind the famous Fatty Fothergill incident when Leo called time out and loudly told the umpire the Tigers where trying to cheat, then peered at the box and said, "Sorry, I thought they had two batters, now I can tell it was only Fatty." Ruth apparently helped slow down Fothergill as he chased Leo all over the field with his bat after striking out in a blind rage.


message 16: by [deleted user] (new)

Harold wrote: "Doug wrote: "I just finished the "called shot" section last night. Creamer doesn't say one way or the other if it happens, which is probably good because no one will ever know. He presents the so-c..."

The Called Shot is baseball's version of Bigfoot, Yetis and the Loch Ness monster all rolled into one. Some of the participants and witnesses changed their stories over the years. The newspaper reports and few grainy images of video are all inconclusive. It's all mythology at this point. No one will ever really know.


message 17: by [deleted user] (new)

Since its the end of the month and time to put this one to rest, I wrote out a summary of some things about the Babe, some of which I've stated previously:

http://dougwilsonbaseball.blogspot.co...


message 18: by Harold (last edited Jun 27, 2017 08:22AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Harold Kasselman | 17528 comments Doug wrote: "Since its the end of the month and time to put this one to rest, I wrote out a summary of some things about the Babe, some of which I've stated previously:

http://dougwilsonbaseball.blogspot.com/2..."


Not that I needed convincing, but you make a great case in your summation. Verdict for Babe.
It is a shame that Hollywood could never come up with a film that was a worthy portrait of Babe Ruth. I wish they would do it again-maybe center on his later years; as a coach, the animosity by Durocher, his cancer, how he dealt with it, etc. I would make it in flashbacks staring with his speech at Yankees stadium when he had throat cancer-"baseball the only real game" etc. If it were done by tugging on the heart like Pride of the Yankees, we might have a good tribute to him.


Harold Kasselman | 17528 comments On a lighter note, the Phillies are on pace to lose 110 games this season. They are currently only 3 games better than the 1962 Mets, the Mendoza standard for team losses.


message 20: by [deleted user] (new)

Harold wrote: "Doug wrote: "Since its the end of the month and time to put this one to rest, I wrote out a summary of some things about the Babe, some of which I've stated previously:

http://dougwilsonbaseball.b..."


That sounds good Harold. Maybe Mike has some Hollywood contacts from his days in the industry he can get working on it.


message 21: by [deleted user] (new)

Harold wrote: "On a lighter note, the Phillies are on pace to lose 110 games this season. They are currently only 3 games better than the 1962 Mets, the Mendoza standard for team losses."

Harold, you and the Phillies are making it hard for me to work up a good pity party about my miserable Reds. How can the Phillies be doing so bad? Looking at their roster in April, I thought they were on the right track at four or five positions. Are the young prospect guys sucking or getting bad attitudes?


Harold Kasselman | 17528 comments They are not doing anything right including mental mistakes. Herrera makes them all the time and his average is way down as well as power. Galvis is a great fielder but is stuck at .230 every year. Hernandez at 2nd has been hurt and out for a couple of weeks. Joseph is hitting well for him, but when compared to other 1st basemen, he is average at best. The catchers both suck-Andrew Knapp and Cam Rup. Howie Kendrick is their best hitter but he is trade bait. Daniel Nava has been playing in left and he's a world traveler. Altherr is playing decently but he's not enough. Pitching is beyond bad and the pen is 2nd worse in baseball. They have Scott Kingery just promoted to AAA who is supposed to be a great fielder and hitter-TBD.
JP Crawford their future ss has been awful. Nick Williams may be brought up soon as an OF but he doesn't have great power-a doubles guy. Then there are two other players that have both led their AA and AAA in HR- Ryhse Hoskins at first and Dylan Cozens. They should be good, but pitching will need to be addressed.


message 23: by [deleted user] (new)

Ugh


message 24: by Mike (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mike (mike9) | 6338 comments Getting scary H-man. Dome scouts are saying Freddie Galvis will ne a better option at shortstop then Crawford.


Harold Kasselman | 17528 comments Mike wrote: "Getting scary H-man. Dome scouts are saying Freddie Galvis will ne a better option at shortstop then Crawford." I know. That is a real let down as is Cornelius Randolph


message 26: by Mike (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mike (mike9) | 6338 comments These guys might not ever have their faces on a baseball card.


Harold Kasselman | 17528 comments Mike wrote: "These guys might not ever have their faces on a baseball card." Very true Mike.


Lance (sportsbookguy) | 12566 comments Mod
Finally getting around to reading this. Got about halfway throung on the train to and from Yankee Stadium today...shoukd finish it in the next day or two.


Lance (sportsbookguy) | 12566 comments Mod
Finished up this book today - and there really isn't much for me to add that hasn't already been said either by other reviewers or in other publications on Ruth. I agree that this is probably the one of the best books on him in terms of complete information and objectivity, especially with the called shot, as Doug noted above. I have not read Leigh Monteville's book and I would run far away from Jane Leavy's book, especially since I did not like her book on Mickey Mantle.


message 30: by Mike (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mike (mike9) | 6338 comments I thought Monteville's was pretty good.


message 31: by Alex (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alex Decker I'm just joining the echo chamber on this one. It was a good read about one of the most influential baseball players of all time. The author did a good job of not making this some fan-body read, nor was it full of unconfirmed salacious tales. I thought it was about as far and balanced as I remember the Monteville book being.

My only real problem is that the editing was strange. The first 60 percent of the book had a definite structure, moving from one season to another, touching on events that had happened and commenting on them. Then, that changed. The author had a random chapter were it just seemed like he said "Well I have all of these random notes, so I'm going to put them here." It's where he talks about Ruth's political leanings, and various minor events that had occurred that weren't really tied to any significant moment in time. I just found it jarring, because it was just a series of footnotes within the structure.

I suppose what I will walk away from this book with is a deeper appreciation of Ruth. His numbers and lore are so staggering that it is easy to poke holes and say "Well...but player X did this..." and not recognize the longevity of his body of work, not to mention time lost to injuries and one could say his early years of pitching. Ruth really is the greatest ball player of all time.


message 32: by [deleted user] (new)

Well said Alex. Like I said before, it's easy to forget just how much impact and how great Babe was because the hoopla (and lousy stuff like the John Goodman movie) sometimes obscures it.

I enjoyed going back and looking at this once again.


message 33: by Alex (new) - rated it 5 stars

Alex Decker Doug wrote: "Well said Alex. Like I said before, it's easy to forget just how much impact and how great Babe was because the hoopla (and lousy stuff like the John Goodman movie) sometimes obscures it.

I enjoye..."


Funny you mention that movie. I finished the book and thought to go check out the movie just to see if it was what I remember when I saw it as a kid. Boy, it was bad. I mean...John Goodman as a teenager? Then the history of it...eesh. It did not hold up well.


Harold Kasselman | 17528 comments If you think that's bad, see the Wm Bendix original Babe Ruth movie. It's laugh out loud bad.


message 35: by [deleted user] (new)

My favorite scene in the William Bendix version is when a pro scout comes to St. Mary's because he's heard George Ruth is good. He visits him in the shirt factory and is talking to him when a baseball flies through the window and lands on the table, leaving a small hole in the window.

The scout has never seen George play, but asks George and one of the fathers, "Can you pitch?"

George picks up the ball and throws a corkscrew pitch across the room that perfectly fits through the hole and flies out. The amazed scout signs him up right there.

Great factual movie! But not recommended for anyone over 5 years old.


Harold Kasselman | 17528 comments Brian Kenny just dropped an a bomb on David price for his dealings with the press and the recent incident with Dennis Eckersley that Dan Shaughnessey wrote about today.


Harold Kasselman | 17528 comments Doug wrote: "My favorite scene in the William Bendix version is when a pro scout comes to St. Mary's because he's heard George Ruth is good. He visits him in the shirt factory and is talking to him when a baseb..." LOL!!!


message 38: by Mike (new)

Mike Reuther | 118 comments I have yet to see that movie with William Bendix playing Babe Ruth. I've heard repeatedly it's such a bad film. And yet, Bendix, given the buffoonish roles he often played, would seem like a good fit for Ruth. Maybe he did the role justice but the movie was just awful. I liked Fear Strikes Out, even if Anthony Perkins as Jimmy Piersall was no kind of ballplayer.


message 39: by Harold (last edited Aug 03, 2017 01:38PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Harold Kasselman | 17528 comments Here is some rare footage of Babe Ruth, Tris Speaker, Wally Pip, Miller Huggins, and even Carl Mays.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_EJxV...
PS I have just been told by John Thorn that this film occurred just a few days before Carl mays killed Roy Chapman.


message 40: by Mike (new)

Mike Reuther | 118 comments One thing I found interesting about the great Walter Johnson, who is believed to be the fastest pitcher of his era, was that he threw sidearm. I don't ever remember reading that about him, and then I saw footage of him and there it was. No wonder he was so tough. You'd think twice about stepping in against him, especially if you were a right-handed hitter. Of course, Ty Cobb claimed he was too much of a gentleman to ever brush back a bitter or hit anyone and he took advantage of that by crowding the plate and waiting for his pitch.


Harold Kasselman | 17528 comments Mike wrote: "One thing I found interesting about the great Walter Johnson, who is believed to be the fastest pitcher of his era, was that he threw sidearm. I don't ever remember reading that about him, and then..." I do remember that about Cobb.


message 42: by Mike (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mike (mike9) | 6338 comments When Cobb first faced Johnson he begged the Tigers owner to try and acquire him. Johnson blew the ball by him early on but as earlier stated once Cobb realized Walter wouldn't go in on him he had some success in hitting him. If i remember correctly Cobb hit around .330 off Johnson lifetime. Since Cobb hit .367 for his career Walter handled him better then most.


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