May 24, 2011

The House That Ruth Built by Robert Weintraub

The House That Ruth Built is a non-fiction historical account of Babe Ruth's rise to fame and the Yankees stake in baseball history.

In the early 1920's the Giants were the team to beat, John McGraw knew the game and helped shaped baseball as we know it today.  He was the owner/operator of the NY Giants and landlord to the Yankees, via the Polo Grounds, in which many of their first games were played.

John McGraw did not like Babe Ruth and often called him names and tormented him.  The Babe was having a rough time, his fans were turning on him and his game was slacking.  He decided to take a break from the game to refocus himself, and though by this time, he was already a superstar, his legend had yet to be born.

The book is chock full of true life stories and accounts on the glory of the game, the Yankees rise to fame, Babe Ruth's rise to glory and John McGraw's infamous hatred to all things Yankee.  McGraw did everything he could to stall or stop the construction of the Yankee Stadium, nestled a short way across the river, sitting like a giant with the Polo Grounds in shadow.  The inevitable was about to occur and the control McGraw curried was about to run thin.

I am not a huge baseball fan but I thoroughly enjoyed this book.  I loved all the historical references and the facts and figures that go with the territory.  I loved Robert Weintraub's casual and friendly writing style, I could almost envision myself in the crowds of the people on opening day of the new Yankee stadium.  He was able to write it in such a way that you could smell the hot dogs and the popcorn and feel the excitement of the 1923 World Series game. 

I enjoyed all the attention to detail that the author was easily able to describe, from the cut blade of the grass to the dimensions of the stadium, nothing is left out and the research involved must have been insurmountable.  What you get in the end is a well-documented piece of literature that is a must read for any baseball fan, but especially those who are fans of two of the countries most rivaled teams, the Yankees and the Giants.

It can be a bit of a dry read in places, especially when they're talking about individual stats of players, but the antics of "The Bambino" as well as, other known greats such as Lou Gehrig, Casey Stengel, Carl Mays etc. etc.  We see a side of Babe Ruth that many are not aware of, as well we are shown his less controlled self also, leaving Babe exposed and human.  We are escapulated by anecdotes that help to deliver a finely expressed love of baseball from the viewpoints of both the Giants and the Yankees, and how they became the epitome of all things American.

The untold story of Babe Ruth's Yankees, John McGraw's Giants, and the extraordinary baseball season of 1923

Before the 27 World Series titles--before Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle, and Derek Jeter-the Yankees were New York's shadow franchise. They hadn't won a championship, and they didn't even have their own field, renting the Polo Grounds from their cross-town rivals the New York Giants. In 1921 and 1922, they lost to the Giants when it mattered most: in October.

But in 1923, the Yankees played their first season on their own field, the newly-built, state of the art baseball palace in the Bronx called "the Yankee Stadium." The stadium was a gamble, erected in relative outerborough obscurity, and Babe Ruth was coming off the most disappointing season of his career, a season that saw his struggles on and off the field threaten his standing as a bona fide superstar.

It only took Ruth two at-bats to signal a new era. He stepped up to the plate in the 1923 season opener and cracked a home run to deep right field, the first homer in his park, and a sign of what lay ahead. It was the initial blow in a season that saw the new stadium christened "The House That Ruth Built," signaled the triumph of the power game, and established the Yankees as New York's-and the sport's-team to beat.

From that first home run of 1923 to the storybook World Series matchup that pitted the Yankees against their nemesis from across the Harlem River-one so acrimonious that John McGraw forced his Giants to get to the Bronx in uniform rather than suit up at the Stadium-Robert Weintraub vividly illuminates the singular year that built a classic stadium, catalyzed a franchise, cemented Ruth's legend, and forever changed the sport of baseball.
 ** Disclosure: I did not accept any compensation from the sponsors other than review copies, my views are my own, reviewed by I see it~!! **

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