Perhaps it’s harder to do a biography of a ball player, as opposed to an author or artist or statesman. Perhaps there’s not a lot of source material to work with, for ball players. But this book is seeming almost as if constructed from a scan of period newspaper articles, and doesn’t give us a lot more depth than that.
We do learn a little bit about Ruth’s boyhood in Baltimore, and a bit more about his minor league experiences, but basically we just get a lot about Ruth playing the game, his performances, and, in the chapter I’m on now, his transition from pitcher to outfielder. There’s not much that gets down to the personal level; the closest offered on his non-baseball life are brief references to his “prodigious appetite” and “womanizing,” and a bit of family stuff that could also have been pulled from the newspapers. Such as his father dying in a fight outside his bar. So it’s seeming pretty superficial so far.
Of course, baseball players are not known for being men of letters, and especially in this time period, the players are not highly educated. I’m pretty sure that there’s not a lot of letters or journals to draw from here, but even first-person-narratives, stories told by friends, other players, or relatives, seem few and far between.
I may need to look at another Ruth bio to compare to this, but this just might put me off baseball biographies for the whole year.
With the content lacking, Creamer’s writing does not rise to the occasion. Unfortunately the most eloquent passage appears in the first chapter of the book, and is a quote from another ballplayer: I’ll add that in here later today.
I will continue to read this, though, because Ruth is such an iconic figure. And perhaps it will improve? Perhaps there will be more sources to draw from as Ruth moves to New York and becomes a huge celebrity.
One last note. It is interesting to read about how good Ruth was as a pitcher. In the chapter I’m reading now, the Red Sox are in the pennant race, and they are short of pitchers. At this point Ruth prefers to play the outfield, but here, at the end of the season, he’s doing both, pitching (highly effectively) every few days, playing outfield on the other days, and batting cleanup. That’s pretty amazing stuff. Makes me want to look for old archival material on that.