Saturday, April 21, 2012

Babe Ruth: Life, Times and Some Thoughts

Leigh Monteville's The Big Bam is a good read. Published in 2006, one would question, as he does, as why we need another biography on America's most well-know baseball player? As baseball fans, we all like to step by in time and wonder what it would have been like to have lived during that era. Was George Herman "Babe" Ruth really the greatest?

Babe was almost larger than life. Raised in less-than-ideal circumstances, he lacked a real family experience. His uneducated father seems to have earned his living in bars and taverns. Little is known about his mother. He was molded by his years in St. Mary's Industrial School in Baltimore. When he was through with school, his baseball skills were good enough to get him a job as a pro ball player.

A great pitcher for the Red Sox, he loved to hit. Because he could hit so well, he was able to transition away from pitching to hitting. If he would have stayed a pitcher, he probably would have been a Hall of Famer.

His transition to a position player changed baseball forever. From singles hitters, he introduced the long ball. Timing was good because the ball became tighter and could be hit much harder and further. People thrill in things they cannot do and no one could hit a ball higher and further than Babe. That ability brought him fame. And it was the fame that made him a very unlikable person.

His baseball statistics are undeniable. He was one of if not the best hitter of all time. But his off-the-field life was a disaster.

He was an extremely selfish man. He was a terrible husband, twice. He was a terrible father. He was a terrible friend -- he did not really have any. He was a slave to his vices, namely unhealthy food, alcohol, gambling and women. It appears that he had sex with thousands of women, while married. He only signed balls and visited boys because of a prudent PR man.

Of all of the famous baseball players, he would be low on my list of people I'd like to meet.

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