BRC Interview With Tom Swyers, Author of “Saving Babe Ruth”
We recently had the opportunity to interview Tom Swyers regarding his fiction novel, “Saving Babe Ruth”. The reference to Babe Ruth is in relation to the Babe Ruth League. In our interview, Tom talks about his book, how it’s been received by readers, as well as Tom’s general thoughts on the Babe and his ongoing baseball legacy.
BRC: First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself?
I grew up in Upstate New York and live in my hometown with my family.
People read my name (Tom Swyers) and confuse me with Tom Sawyer. I’m not him, though I do tell people I married Becky Thatcher and my best friend is Huck Finn!
But maybe we all have a little Tom Sawyer in us. I think Babe Ruth, for example, had a lot of Tom Sawyer in him.
As for me, I’m an attorney, a judge, and now an author. Saving Babe Ruth is my first book and I plan to write more. My upcoming novel is entitled The Killdeer Connection. It will be more of a legal thriller than Saving Babe Ruth.
BRC: What inspired you to write “Saving Babe Ruth”?
First of all, it is based on a true story and I think people would be surprised to discover just how much of the book is true.
For a number of years, I was involved in youth baseball in my hometown and in the Upstate New York area. I witnessed firsthand the forces that are acting to crush community baseball (and all of youth sports) as a healthy option for kids everywhere.
So I decided to fight back and try and make a difference. Along with the help of a few others, I helped to change the sport in our region for the better.
Saving Babe Ruth is really my story fictionalized to a certain extent. It took me four years to write it.
BRC: Can you share a little bit about the plot of “Saving Babe Ruth”?
When burned-out lawyer and Civil War buff David Thompson decides to fight to save a kids’ baseball league, he’s launched on a thrill ride that threatens his family, his team, and his life.
A cast of shady adults and the high school baseball coaches despise David for trying to save it. They’ll do anything to wreck the league so that their elite travel teams can take over its beautiful ball field, even if it means going after David and his family.
The harder David battles to save the league, the worse things get. He’s in way over his head and he’s also stuck in a family catch-22. If he surrenders, he might lose his son’s love along with his own self-respect to say nothing of losing baseball for the sandlot kids in town. Yet if he doesn’t back down, he’ll lose his marriage and his son will lose any chance to play on the high school team. To make things right, David needs to know when to fold and when to fight. He’s being pushed and shoved to his breaking point and only one thing is for sure: If he snaps, he’s not planning on taking prisoners.
BRC: What has the response been to your book?
“Crazy” is one word that would describe it. The novel has achieved critical acclaim from both reviewers and readers alike. It also won two Benjamin Franklin Book Awards in 2015. It took gold as the “Best First Book: Fiction” and silver as “Best Popular Fiction.”
With respect to the last award, I’m happy the novel has transcended the sports genre and that people who are not baseball fans have read it and have enjoyed it as well.
On top of it all, one of the nation’s top professional sports agents threatened to sue me over the book. I don’t want to say too much on that topic because it might spoil the book for anyone who plans to read it.
BRC: What impression or key messages do you want to leave the reader with when they finish reading “Saving Babe Ruth”?
First and foremost, I hope the reader enjoys the book. There’s a lot of humor in it, but it will also make you think. Readers have experienced a wide range of emotions in reading it and have found their own meaning in it.
I think it’s a classic underdog story and illustrates lessons for everyone in all walks of life on how to try and make a difference in the face of incredible odds.
I hope that every baseball fan, history fan, baseball parent, and every teenager who is involved in baseball, has the opportunity to read Saving Babe Ruth.
BRC: I assume you’re a big baseball fan? What is it about the game that you really appreciate?
Yes, I’m a passionate fan of the sport. As a writer, I really appreciate how much of the game of baseball parallels real life and how we all can use those lessons and apply to our day-to-day challenges. I also find the history of baseball fascinating in how it parallels our history as a country.
BRC: What is your opinion of the Babe? What do you feel his impact was in Baseball and American Pop Culture?
Babe Ruth’s impact on baseball is still felt today. He’s consistently chosen as the greatest baseball player in history to play the game and I think he was the driving force behind baseball’s ascension to become America’s pastime.
By all accounts, Babe Ruth was a flamboyant and likeable guy. When you combine his personality with his baseball talent, it was only natural that the sportswriters loved to cover him. Pure and simple, he sold newspapers. He became a household name and then a brand name. But beneath it all, he never seemed to forget who he was and where he came from. I think this quality even made him more of an icon in our eyes, even today.
BRC: What are your thoughts on the Babe (as a player and as a person)?
I think Babe Ruth loved life and tried to live it to its fullest personally and professionally.
As a player, Babe Ruth is still viewed today by many as the greatest baseball player ever. He is a common benchmark even today by which many professional players are measured against at some point in their careers.
As a person, I think any time you talk about Babe Ruth, you run the risk of overlooking some facet or facets of his extraordinary life that helped to both shape and define him as a complete person.
With that being said, one aspect of Babe Ruth that’s always fascinated me was his willingness and ability to reach out and touch people and try and impact their lives in a positive way. We don’t keep statistics on that, but if we did, I would think that Babe Ruth might be a leader in that metric. In fact, I think his efforts to touch people while he was living still reverberates with us today long after his death.
I think Saving Babe Ruth highlights some aspects of Babe’s life that live on today that are underappreciated and need to be rejuvenated.
Babe Ruth realized, for example, that without baseball, his life could have turned out quite differently. He said, “If it wasn’t for baseball, I’d be in either the penitentiary or the cemetery.” Having baseball available to him as a youth, gave him a positive outlet that kept him out of trouble and gave him direction.
Go to any ball field in any town today, and I know you can find kids who will be able to say the same thing years from now in their chosen professions or in their personal lives, provided baseball is made available to them.
It’s sad that the professionalization of the sport at an earlier and earlier age in a misdirected effort to secure a sports scholarship or a pro career makes it less and less likely that baseball will remain a recreational sport open to all in many communities going forward. I hope Saving Babe Ruth might stem the tide and then reverse it.
Babe Ruth wanted to make sure that baseball was available to every youth, regardless of skill. He said, “I won’t be happy until we have every boy between the ages six and sixteen wearing a glove and swinging a bat.” It’s no wonder that Babe Ruth League, Inc. was established in his name with the support of his family to make sure that baseball survives in communities everywhere.
I think his desire to keep baseball available to every child lives on today and yet that’s just one facet of his incredible legacy.
I hope Saving Babe Ruth helps to perpetuate his legacy in some small way.
BRC: Thanks for your time and thoughtful responses Tom! We wish you the best with your book “Saving Babe Ruth”!