When Babe Ruth led the New York Yankees into their first World Series ever in 1921 — 95 years ago — he had just finished what may have been the best season a hitter has ever had: 59 home runs, 161 RBIs, a .378 batting average. He scored 177 runs. Opposing teams hated to pitch to him; he impatiently endured 145 bases on balls.
Babe Ruth was a great pitcher before he was a great hitter. Doesn’t it seem likely that one of the reasons he was a great hitter was because he had been a great pitcher?
Playing for the Boston Red Sox from 1915 to 1918, the Babe was probably the best left-handed pitcher in the American League. He won 78 games and lost only 40, racking up an E.R.A. of 2.28 for his entire pitching career. He was fabulous in clutch situations, setting a record that stood for decades by pitching 29 consecutive scoreless innings in World Series games.
With less than three weeks to go until my novel concerning Babe Ruth debuts, The Babe Ruth Deception, I find myself wondering why Babe Ruth movies are so bad. In fairness, though, not all of them are terrible, at least not when he wasn’t the focus of the film.
He played himself in The Pride of the Yankees, which starred Gary Cooper as the doomed teammate, Lou Gerhig. Babe portrayed himself pretty well in a solid tear-jerker.
Partly because he loved to play baseball, partly because he loved to spend money, Babe Ruth played lots of exhibition games in the offseason across the country and in the Caribbean. After his astonishing 1921 season, the formed the Babe Ruth All Stars, which played against multiple Negro League teams, including the Kansas City Monarchs and the Atlantic City Bacharach Giants.
It’s completely weird.
They can go on forever, the only time Southern California TV stations never break for commercials. The first one on Monday morning lasted more than two hours. Later in the day, a second one lasted two hours.
It sounds mind-numbing. Helicopter cameras track a single car speeding down interstates and freeways while a reporter estimates the speed of the vehicle, the nature of the roads coming up, the risks the driver is running, the time elapsed in the pursuit, and any other drivel he or she can dream up to fill the time.
Now that he’s won the Pulitzer Prize for it, maybe we’ll pay attention to the words of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, the genre-smashing Broadway hit that costs a monthly car payment to attend. When we listen to the words – really listen – we can appreciate his achievement.
Magic can happen when story and words and music meet, when a single artistic vision commands eye and ear and imagination. That’s the secret of opera’s survival despite its preposterous qualities, and also of Hamilton. But there’s more to Miranda’s creation.
The serendipity of the used bookstore — its ability to provide unexpected pleasures — is gaining attention recently. Even the Washington Post (owned by Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos) has noticed. I offer Exhibit A in support.
The death last weekend of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia brought to mind the time when he turned over a stone in the legal rockpile only to reveal an awkward bit of half-smart maneuvering by me — though until now my name was never publicly associated with it.
The case involved the Equal Access to Justice Act (EAJA), a law that allows small businesses and individuals opposing the federal government to recover some of their attorney fees if they prevail and if the government’s position was not “substantially justified.” Promptly, a lot of ink was spilled over the meaning of “substantially justified.”
One of the surprising parts of writing books, for me, has been the amount of performance involved — I mean performance: standing up and putting on a show.
My experience is, of course, framed by the kind of writer I’ve become. I’m “midlist,” which is a term that describes all the writers who fall between those who sell gazillions of books and those who can’t get their books published. Publishers expect midlist writers to go out and hustle the books.
It’s not the best photo of me that’s ever been taken, but there are definite virtues to this one, particularly President Clinton’s savvy placement of the copy of Madison’s Gift that I presented to him.
Our conversation? I said that I imagined that he had not found time to read Lynne Cheney’s biography of Madison. He smiled broadly and said, “I did not.” I presented Madison’s Gift as a superior alternative.