Babe Ruth: A Twentieth-Century Life

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Babe Ruth is still regarded as perhaps the greatest baseball player ever to step on a diamond. Born into a poor family in Baltimore, George Herman Ruth Jr. was sent to a Catholic reform school at age seven, where he learned how to play baseball. Initially a talented southpaw, the Babe went on to shatter every home-run record on the books-and when fewer games were played in a season and a heavier ball was used. In this engaging and fast-paced biography, award-winning author Wilborn Hampton shares with readers The ...

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Babe Ruth

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Babe Ruth is still regarded as perhaps the greatest baseball player ever to step on a diamond. Born into a poor family in Baltimore, George Herman Ruth Jr. was sent to a Catholic reform school at age seven, where he learned how to play baseball. Initially a talented southpaw, the Babe went on to shatter every home-run record on the books-and when fewer games were played in a season and a heavier ball was used. In this engaging and fast-paced biography, award-winning author Wilborn Hampton shares with readers The Babe was also a man of big heart, temper, and appetite.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature - Paul Walter
"I swing big, with everything I've got. I hit big or I miss big. I like to live as big as I can." This portion of a quote from George Herman (Babe) Ruth, describing his batting technique, is the perfect ending for this title in the "Up Close" series. It seems that through his life, Ruth was constantly swinging for the fences. While the author admits early on that it is difficult to separate the man from the myth, Hampton starts with what he can cobble out of Ruth's childhood. With a negligent, tavern-owning father and a frail, sickly mother, Ruth was left to his own devices, running the streets and making mischief. Various accounts are given as to the ultimate breaking point, but whatever the reason, in June of 1902 Ruth was sent to St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys. This reform school, ran by the Catholic order of the Xaverian Brothers, aimed to give disadvantaged boys skills that would eventually help them earn a living. Even as Ruth took up tailoring and shirt making, though, it was baseball that occupied his time and showcased his talent. One Catholic brother in particular, Brother Matthias, had a profound influence on Ruth as a man and a ballplayer, right down to the "small, pigeon-toed steps" Ruth borrowed from his mentor. Brother Matthias, who Ruth described as "the greatest man I've ever known," was also there the day Ruth signed his first contract with the Baltimore Orioles. From the Orioles, to the Boston Red Sox, to the Yankees, Ruth's reputation as a player and a scoundrel grew. The book balances tales of his skilled pitching and monstrous hitting, culminating with the obligatory "called shot," with stories of his partying, temper (he seemingly wanted to punch everyonein the nose), and infidelity. While this balance is required in a respectable biography, the focus on Ruth's shortcomings often dispels the myth mist to the point of ruining the illusion. It is only at the end, of the book and his life, when Ruth is too meek to be imposing, that Hampton lets his guard down and takes a more lighthearted approach to the man and the legend. One example of this is the quote from Bob Shawkey, a mild mannered former Yankee teammate, who points out, "People sometimes got mad at him, but I never heard of anyone who didn't like Babe Ruth." Up to that final chapter ten, the book is well crafted, factual, and logically laid out, but it works too hard to expose the Sultan of Swat as a flawed man, albeit one with amazing talent and a lasting legacy. Reviewer: Paul Walter
VOYA - Nancy K. Wallace
These concise "Up Close Biographies" profile the lives of key twentieth-century people in the world of sports, the arts, politics, and science. These books, which each contain ten to sixteen chapters, comprise a series that is appropriate for ages twelve and older, but some titles may appeal to younger readers. Baseball fans will enjoy Babe Ruth. This terrific blend of sports history and personal narrative offers a dynamic account of "a boy who fought his way out of a Baltimore slum to become the idol of every kid in America." The author is careful to convey the humanity behind the legend, moving seamlessly from Ruth's impoverished childhood to his ground breaking talents on the field. Throughout the book, readers are shown the duality of Ruth's life; his early suffering nurtured a rebellious and arrogant disposition, but it also gave rise to a man determined to help young children suffering under poverty and neglect. Reviewer: Nancy K. Wallace
School Library Journal

Gr 7 Up

This book offers readers a fascinating look at the life of the man who, at the age of seven, was taken by his father to a Roman Catholic institution for homeless and troubled boys for "incorrigible" behavior. The teachers and students at St. Mary's became his family, and Brother Matthias, the athletic director, instilled in him his love of baseball and became a lifelong mentor. In 1914, when Babe was 18, the owner of the Baltimore Orioles offered him a contract. So began his tumultuous career in baseball, which lasted more than 20 years, most of which were spent with the New York Yankees. Hampton's narrative gives baseball lovers plenty of detailed statistical facts, but as a whole, the biography is more a weaving together of the various elements of Babe's personality that made him the larger-than-life legend. His generosity, his inability to control his excessive appetites, his quick temper, and his fondness for practical jokes all come through in this recounting that is more accessible than Leigh Montville's The Big Bam (Doubleday, 2006). Carefully chosen photographs enhance the presentation, and the author is meticulous in listing his sources. His extensive research and engaging conversational tone combine to produce a chronicle of Ruth's life that both fans and novices will find hard to put down.-Kim Dare, Fairfax County Public Schools, VA

Kirkus Reviews
Celebrating his subject as "the greatest player ever to step on a baseball diamond," Hampton ably reports the "comic opera [and] grand drama" that was the career of George Herman Ruth. Though never an orphan, as baseball legend often has it, Ruth was a bad kid from a bad part of Baltimore. He was sent to a Catholic reform school and he did grow up to be "the idol of every kid in America." Without mythologizing Ruth, this volume tells a no-holds-barred tale of the Babe's playing-field heroics, womanizing, publicity stunts, the legendary "called-shot," ten World Series, 22 seasons and 54 records. The writing is more encyclopedic than dramatic, but it does portray Ruth as a flawed hero, a likable athlete who would sign baseballs and visit orphanages and hospitals but who was always ready to react to criticism by punching someone in the nose. The "big, moon-shaped, snub-nosed face" of Babe Ruth will forever be a part of baseball lore, and this work does credit to the player of legend. (foreword, bibliography, index) (Biography. 10 & up)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780670063055
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 3/19/2009
  • Series: Up Close Series
  • Pages: 208
  • Sales rank: 739,079
  • Age range: 11 - 12 Years
  • Lexile: 1120L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 7.10 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Wilborn Hampton

Wilborn Hampton has been an editor and book and theater critic for the New York Times. He is also the award-winning author of Up Close: Elvis Presley (Viking) and Kennedy Assassinated!. He lives in New York City.

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Customer Reviews

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 22, 2014


    I LOVE this book

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    Posted February 26, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

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