Boston Globe, “23 hot picks for cool fall books”
Leavy follows up her outstanding biography of Mickey Mantle with another winner, this time about the most important baseball player of all time. The author covers all aspects of Ruth’s massive life, bringing true empathy and impressive depth of knowledge to her complex subject.
Katherine Power’s review in the Wall Street Journal: “American Hit Parade”:
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. There is Ruth’s unfortunate marriage to Helen Woodford and her unenviable fate, as well as the neglected childhood of their adopted daughter, Dorothy. And then there are Ruth’s post-playing years: his thwarted hopes of becoming a manager, and his agonizing but bravely borne illness and death at age 53. But the winning side of the Babe’s life predominates in these pages and in history. He remains, as ever-changing statistical analysis still demonstrates, one of baseball’s greatest ballplayers. And, thanks to the book’s other stellar performer, Christy Walsh, he had a participant role in the transformation of America, becoming, in Ms. Leavy’s words, “synonymous with undiluted American power and unbridled appetite.”
Ed Sherman in the Chicago Tribune: “Babe Ruth bio sheds new light, plus more sports books reviewed”
There have been numerous books written about the enormous life of Babe Ruth (including one by this reviewer on his famous “called shot” homer in Wrigley Field). Jane Leavy, though, manages to mine new material in her wonderful book on the baseball legend, “The Big Fella.” The author of best-selling biographies on Sandy Koufax and Mickey Mantle, Leavy narrows her focus on Ruth’s tumultuous childhood and a 1927 postseason barnstorming trip that shows how he helped create the template for athletes becoming celebrities in modern culture. Leavy provides stark contrast by weaving together chapters of the wild young George (his real name) with the still-wild adult Babe. She digs deep to get the compelling details of Ruth’s highly dysfunctional family growing up in Baltimore. His mother was an alcoholic, and his father, George Sr., didn’t have much interest in raising his son, eventually sending him off to an orphanage at age 7. His upbringing explains the reason for some of his legendary incorrigible behavior as a young star. After he hit a record 60 homers in 1927, Leavy re-creates how Ruth and teammate Lou Gehrig cashed in on their fame with an exhibition tour throughout the country. Leavy writes extensively about the mastermind of the trip, Ruth’s business manager, Christy Walsh, who as sports’ first agent completely changed the dynamic for future athletic superstars. Leavy explores other issues, including a chapter on why Ruth was subjected to racially charged taunts from opponents over rumors that he had African-American blood in his heritage. Ultimately, Leavy provides a different perspective of a man who consistently broke the mold in sports and society.