Tuesday, July 03, 2007

The Big Bam (copy)

Serendipity is the art of finding something meaningful amid looking for something else; or at least, that is how I define it. It happened last week while perusing the Atlanta airport books. I was in the mood for Flannery O’Connor, a native Georgian, when I ran across his face. Who? None other than, "the Sultan of Swat, The Caliph of Clout, The Wizard of Whack, the Rajah of Rap, the Wazir of Wham, the Mammoth of Maul, the Maharajah of Mash, the Bambino. The Bam. The Big Bam." Yes, staring me in the face was The Big Bam by Leigh Montville.

Skipping down the concourse and plopping into a seat next to hubby, I smile as I reveal my manly book. Ah, I can see in his eyes, he is impressed with my decision. He then tells me he has tickets to watch the Yankees at Yankee Stadium while in New York. He wants to see a game in the "House that Ruth Built" before they move across the street.

"Babe Ruth played for the Yankees and they built a stadium for him?"

Yes, yes. Laugh away. It is a good thing this book called out to me! I obviously know nothing of the game of baseball. Maybe Babe’s ghost placed it in my ignorant hands to keep me from further embarrassing myself.

The Babe’s early life is a mystery and author Montville calls it the fog. The book opens with father, George Herman Ruth, escorting his seven year old son to St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys. The school housed orphans, truants, and delinquents; for some reason, a place Mr. Ruth thought better than his home above the family bar. Reasons are in the fog.

It is at school Ruth learned how to pitch, hit, and field a baseball. At the age of 18, a scout for the Baltimore Orioles, Jack Dunn, stopped in for a look-see. He noticed as the large boy came to bat, "the right fielder moved so far back that he left the playing field, crossed a path, and stood in the next field, where another game was taking place." Next thing, the ball careened over the same fielder’s head.

In the early 1900s, a home run was seen as a fluke, as unexpected as an ace in golf. The book states, "The balls were not made for home runs...scuffed up, roughed up, spit upon, and used for as many as 100 pitches in a game. The bats, heavy and thick through the handle, were not made for home runs. The mind was not made for home runs." Here, standing in front of Jack Dunn, was a miracle.

For what ever reason, I’m glad I finally met Babe Ruth. Montville summed it up nicely, "He will be crude and rude and kind and approachable, sometimes all in the same ten minutes, and it all will be fine. He will be credited with miracles. Fine."