Break­ing Babe Ruth: Base­ball’s Cam­paign Against Its Big­gest Star

Ed­mund F. Wehrle

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews - JEFF FLEISCHER

Univer­sity of Mis­souri Press (MAY) Hard­cover $29.95 (288pp) 978-0-8262-2160-5

If Babe Ruth had not cap­tured the pub­lic imag­i­na­tion when he did, odds are base­ball would never have be­come the na­tional pas­time and the multi­bil­lion dol­lar in­dus­try it is to­day. How­ever, as Ed­mund F. Wehrle thor­oughly de­tails in Break­ing Babe Ruth, both the league and the Yan­kees rou­tinely took steps to un­der­mine their big­gest star and dam­age his rep­u­ta­tion. This is an en­gag­ing, im­por­tant book.

The book cov­ers the full arc of Ruth’s life, from be­ing aban­doned as a child in Bal­ti­more to a liv­ing as a re­tired le­gend un­able to ob­tain the man­ager job he’d long sought. It in­cludes all his fa­mil­iar on- and off-field high­lights. At each point, though, Wehrle also con­sid­ers Ruth as an early la­bor fig­ure: a man well aware of how much his em­ploy­ers prof­ited from his work, but who had lim­ited power to claim his fair share of that profit.

Ruth’s con­tract ne­go­ti­a­tions pro­vide some of the book’s drama. The team at­tacked his ma­tu­rity in print, spread gos­sip both real and imag­ined, and in­sisted that the slug­ger’s salary de­mands were at­tempts to make him larger than the game.

Wehrle pro­vides well-re­searched con­text for all these events and casts light on the sources be­hind some of the Ruth leg­ends that have sur­vived to the present day— Events like the “called shot” World Se­ries home run and the home run for an ill Johnny Sylvester are re­vis­ited for how they play into Ruth’s pub­lic per­sona.

While the book ex­plores the dis­con­nect be­tween the dif­fer­ent ver­sions of Ruth, this re­mains as great a base­ball story as it is a la­bor story. Wehrle ex­pertly paints a pic­ture of how Ruth helped grow his sport from one mired in trou­bles with gam­bling and vi­o­lence into a lead­ing en­ter­tain­ment source for Amer­ica—and of how lit­tle that con­tri­bu­tion was ap­pre­ci­ated in its day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.