The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created (Paperback)

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NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER • From Jane Leavy, the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Boy and Sandy Koufax, comes the definitive biography of Babe Ruth—the man Roger Angell dubbed "the model for modern celebrity."


The Boston Globe Publishers Weekly Kirkus | Newsweek The Philadelphia Inquirer The Progressive

Winner of the 2019 SABR Seymour Medal | Finalist for the PEN/ESPN Literary Sports Writing Award | Longlisted for Spitball Magazine’s Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year | Finalist for the NBCC Award for Biography

“Leavy’s newest masterpiece…. A major work of American history by an author with a flair for mesmerizing story-telling.” Forbes

He lived in the present tense—in the camera’s lens. There was no frame he couldn’t or wouldn’t fill. He swung the heaviest bat, earned the most money, and incurred the biggest fines. Like all the new-fangled gadgets then flooding the marketplace—radios, automatic clothes washers, Brownie cameras, microphones and loudspeakers—Babe Ruth "made impossible events happen." Aided by his crucial partnership with Christy Walsh—business manager, spin doctor, damage control wizard, and surrogate father, all stuffed into one tightly buttoned double-breasted suit—Ruth drafted the blueprint for modern athletic stardom.

His was a life of journeys and itineraries—from uncouth to couth, spartan to spendthrift, abandoned to abandon; from Baltimore to Boston to New York, and back to Boston at the end of his career for a finale with the only team that would have him. There were road trips and hunting trips; grand tours of foreign capitals and post-season promotional tours, not to mention those 714 trips around the bases.

After hitting his 60th home run in September 1927—a total that would not be exceeded until 1961, when Roger Maris did it with the aid of the extended modern season—he embarked on the mother of all barnstorming tours, a three-week victory lap across America, accompanied by Yankee teammate Lou Gehrig. Walsh called the tour a "Symphony of Swat." The Omaha World Herald called it "the biggest show since Ringling Brothers, Barnum and Bailey, and seven other associated circuses offered their entire performance under one tent." In The Big Fella, acclaimed biographer Jane Leavy recreates that 21-day circus and in so doing captures the romp and the pathos that defined Ruth’s life and times.

Drawing from more than 250 interviews, a trove of previously untapped documents, and Ruth family records, Leavy breaks through the mythology that has obscured the legend and delivers the man.

About the Author

Jane Leavy, award-winning former sportswriter and feature writer for the Washington Post, is author of the New York Times bestsellers Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy, The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood, and the comic novel Squeeze Play. She lives in Washington, D.C. and Truro, Massachusetts.

Praise For…

“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.”
Wall Street Journal

“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

“An editor of mine once told me that each generation 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

“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

“Does the world need another biography of Babe Ruth? If it’s this one, then the answer is an emphatic yes.”
Kirkus (starred review)

“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

“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.

“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

“Fascinating…reveals Ruth’s pioneering role in modern celebrity.”
The Guardian

 “The Big Fella, beyond being the premiere biography about the King of Crash, is a book for all history buffs, not just fans of the New York Yankees, baseball, or sports in general.”
Philadelphia Inquirer
Product Details
ISBN: 9780062380234
ISBN-10: 0062380230
Publisher: Harper Perennial
Publication Date: September 24th, 2019
Pages: 656
Language: English