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Publisher's Summary

From Jane Leavy, the award-winning, New York Times best-selling 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."

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.

©2018 Jane Leavy (P)2018 HarperCollins Publishers

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What listeners say about The Big Fella

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  • Overall
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Babe Ruth and American History

More than a baseball biography, this is really a history of America in the 1920’s, when the Babe was its biggest celebrity. It’s a tale well-told by Jane Leavy. Each chapter relates the events around a barnstorming tour in 1927, when the Babe and Lou Gehrig played exhibition games before boisterous —and frequently rioting — fans around the country. It’s non-linear, in that chapters have subsections devoted to things like the history of commercial radio, but that’s what makes it such a good listen. For those who want to reference the extensive appendices and photos, you’d probably be better off with the hard copy or E-reader editions.

8 people found this helpful

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It's Not a Typical Biography

The Big Fella is an excellent book with a lot of information and stories about the Babe that have not been included in other biographies. However, this is not a typical biography presented in chronological order from birth to death. Using the Babe's and Gehrig's 1927 barnstorming tour as an organizing theme, Leavy dives into the Babe's life off the diamond. Each stop on the tour is simply a jumping off point for stories about different aspects of the Babe's life. There is a lot of information about young Babe and how his parent's separation and mother's death affected his life. A lot of the book focuses on the cultural impact Babe had on the 1920s and 1930s and how he responded/survived the unprecedented adulation that was showered down on him. Babe's manager Christy Walsh is a major character who as the first major sports agent turned the Babe into a commodity and made him a multi-millionaire.

2 people found this helpful

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Periphery to the Babe

Listening to this book is like expecting a book to be about the earth but finding out that it is about the moon. This book touches on the Babe’s life through the eyes of people with whom he had contact. If you want the down and dirty story about his childhood and his finances then this is the book for you. If you want baseball stories then you probably want to pass on this book. The Epilogue and Appendixes were over three hours long.

5 people found this helpful

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The Narrator Ruined It

I really wanted to like this book, and I really tried to but the narrator ruined it. They were so boring that I could not finish the book. This is the first time that has ever happened to me.

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nice!

Soo good and thorough!!! blown away by specifics and stats. amazing! such a good listen

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Unbearable

The narrator was fair but I had to stop listening after about 3 hours because the book jumped around so much. About 30 minutes was devoted to Babe Ruth’s manager. I would think a biography about a baseball player might delve into his early history in the game sometime within the first several chapters. I want my money back.

5 people found this helpful

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Subtitle says a lot

This is not only about Babe Ruth, but about the times he lived in. The author writes with an awareness that others have written about The Babe before. And that's both good and bad. It's good because most of the things that are well known are covered quickly. We definitely don't need pages and pages of stories we've all heard before. On the other hand, some of things we may not know about -- the people in his orbit, his financial arrangements-- are covered in detail and they're just not that interesting. This is a very good book. I'm glad I listened to it. But it's not quite the classic one hoped for.

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Seminal Account of the Babe

This was the most thorough account of any historical figure I've ever read, or in this case, listened to. This was a monumental project for the author and we are the beneficiaries. For those listening to the audio book, the narrator was great.

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Not for a Baseball fan

Got tired of listening to details about others, including a horse. Dugout out is on the 1st base side, not 3rd.

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Excellent portrait of the Babe

I love sports history books and with very limited live sports to watch right now it was a perfect time for it. This was the third of Jane Leavy’s books I’ve done. I also listened to her books on Mickey Mantle and Sandy Koufax. I think the Koufax one was the best and this one is second. This was not designed to be a traditional biography. It follows Ruth on the 1927 exhibition tour that he and Lou Gehrig did after the season. However, through giving background and following up on things it takes you through much of his life. Just don’t think it’s going to cover every season he played or detail all of his accomplishments. It also goes through events of the time and how Ruth influenced many events. It also captures Ruth as a player and a person. It even details how Christy Walsh handled Ruth’s finances and helped to make him very wealthy in an era that it was not a given for even the best players. I enjoyed the book, but Leavy approaches sports history in a scholarly fashion and that might not appeal to all. The book is very well researched. In fact the book was 23 hours long, but the last 4 hours detail her research methods and sources. I skipped over some of that, but one thing I found interesting was she said that we can expect to see more older subjects revisited in books because the research is so much easier now as more records and newspapers are archived online. Overall, I enjoyed it and the reader was a good one for the subject matter.