Today, a conversation about one of the most fascinating figures, not only in baseball history, but in American history. George Herman "Babe" Ruth, Jr. was born and raised in Baltimore, graduated from the school of hard knocks, and evolved into the most famous man in America, whose every swing of the bat seemed to be a matter of national interest, and whose every exploit off the field was a source of endless fascination for Depression-era fans. His influence and importance to the game is unquestioned, and because the timing of his rise to prominence coincided with an expansion of media from print to broadcast, his influence in the public sphere, well outside the diamond, was unprecedented.
In her fascinating and granular look at the life of Babe Ruth, Jane Leavy -- the best-selling author of The Last Boy and Sandy Koufax -- observes, “At some point in the trajectory of fame, real life becomes apocryphal. Home runs travel in perpetuity, drafting on perpetually willing suspension of disbelief. The temporal facts of biography no longer matter because everyone knows a person who can hit 60 home runs will live forever.”
Babe Ruth did hit 60 home runs in the 1927 season, and we’ve been talking about him ever since. Jane Leavy asserts that our current notion of what it means to be a celebrity, what it means to be famous, were inexorably shaped by the life and media circus that was "the Great Bambino." Her book is called The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created.
Jane Leavy joins Tom today in Studio A.
Their conversation was live-streamed on WYPR's Facebook page, and you can watch the video here.
(This program was originally broadcast on January 29, 2019)