Saturday, August 24, 2013

Book Review: The Babe in Red Stockings

I have actually had this book for a very long time.  It was not my first Red Sox book, that honor belongs to The Curse of the Bambino by Dan Shaughnessy, but it was one of the earliest.  I had read something about its upcoming release and decided it was one that I really wanted.

I had previously read a book about Babe Ruth, but the Red Sox portion of his career took up just one chapter.  It was disappointing to me as a Red Sox fan.  This book strives to be the most complete chronicle of the all-time great's first five seasons, all spent in Boston.  The amount of detail in this book is truly remarkable as it follows a chronological story of the development of George Herman Ruth into the superstar he eventually became.

What is often lost in the legend of Babe Ruth is that he was already a massive baseball star prior to his acquisition by the Yankees.  Ruth was widely considered the best pitcher in the league as early as 1916, just his second full season.  And his hitting was already making waves as well.  Of course Ruth would not last as a pitcher because his bat became much too important to not use everyday.

This book briefly discusses Ruth's early life until the point that he was signed by the Red Sox, almost as an afterthought, when the team sought to pick up Ernie Shore, a great pitcher in his own right.  Ruth spent most of the 1914 season in the minors but managed to pitch a few games for the Red Sox.  He then burst upon the scene in 1915.

The book covers Ruth's World Series history in great detail, emphasizing his incredible scoreless innings streak.  It also tells numerous humorous stories, such as the time that Ruth tossed his piano into a pond and his frequent difficulties remembering names.  It discusses the number of times Ruth attempted to jump the team.  Ruth was apparently quite the handful and it was likely part of the reason that Harry Frazee sold him to the Yankees.

Of course the sale to the Yankees is a major portion of this book.  It attempts to look into the various reasons why that sale came to be.  It was most likely a combination of factors, financial and baseball-related.  The theory was that Ruth was sold and the money gained was to be used to purchase another star as the Yankees did not have enough talent to make a trade even.

It is quite clear from reading this book that Babe Ruth was already a force to be reckoned with in baseball even early with the Red Sox.  This is a fascinating read for Red Sox fans and even general fans of baseball.  There just is not enough information out there about Babe Ruth in his Red Sox days.  This book is a fantastic in-depth look at that time period.

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