Interview With Author Bill Jenkinson About His Latest Babe Ruth Book

Hello Babe Ruth fans!

Bill Jenkinson is one of the most well-known Babe Ruth authors and historians out there and likely the most knowledgeable expert when it comes to the history of Major League Baseball’s sluggers and their home runs. He’s had a busy year that has included multiple baseball-related appearances, as well as the release of his latest book, “BABE RUTH: Against All Odds, World’s Mightiest Slugger”. We recently had the opportunity to catch up with Bill to hear more about his recent trips, as well as some of the details of his latest book.

BRC: Bill, can you share some of your more memorable baseball-related events this year?:

This has been an especially active and enjoyable year for me in the celebration of Babe Ruth’s extraordinary legacy. In March, I traveled to Saint Petersburg, Florida where Babe’s daughter, Julia Stevens, visited for the first time since 1943. Julia’s visit was arranged by fellow-historian, Tim Reid, and it resulted in three days of amazing memory making.

Of course, Julia had visited St. Pete many times in her younger years when she accompanied her famous father during spring training. Then in 2014, after a seventy-one year hiatus, she came back, flying in from Las Vegas. The ninety-seven-year-old Julia spent the next three days visiting her former favorite places all around town, and making new friends in a continuous adventure. She stayed up after midnight each day, astonishing all of us with her enthusiasm, curiosity, and stamina. Julia visited old hotels, city landmarks, and baseball venues, and, with a twinkle in her eyes, would point and say that “Daddy” had done this or that all those long years ago. It was pure joy for all of us who were fortunate enough to be there.

Then, in July, responding to Julia’s kind invitation, I traveled to Conway, New Hampshire to join her on the occasion of her ninety-eighth birthday. This time, I was accompanied by Father Gabriel Costa, Professor of Mathematics at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point and noted baseball historian. Again, it was all nostalgic delight. I could feel The Babe smiling down on us.

BRC: Can give us a little bit of background on your third and latest Babe Ruth-related book?:

Actually, my year with Babe Ruth began in January when it occurred to me that we were about to recognize the 100th anniversary of his entry into Major League Baseball. I was musing over that fact and thinking that, as a so-called Ruthian scholar, I should be making some sort of public statement. Yet, it was too late to write another book in time for the precise anniversary date on July 11, 2014. Or was it? My daughter, Denise, had already been encouraging me to write an e-book, asserting that this new format was the future in publishing. The wheels began to turn.

Although my first two books had generally been very well received, there were some lingering issues. A few skeptics were still cynical about my assertions of Babe Ruth’s overwhelming superiority in the matter of pure batting power. I had never used all my research data anyway, and, by 2014, I had accrued even more relevant data. In other words, I still had more to say. So, when I decided that I could probably write my next Babe book in six months, if I worked hard enough at the project, I decided to give it a try. After all, the research had been progressing steadily since 1979. I’m glad that I made that decision.

By July 11, I had finished the book. It is titled BABE RUTH: Against All Odds, World’s Mightiest Slugger, and I am pleased and proud of the results. Within its pages, I have provided important new information about Babe Ruth’s life and career, information that has never been seen before in any kind of book.

BRC: Can you give us some samples of this never-shared information you reference?:

For example, I talk about the only time (as far as anyone knows) that Babe had his drives precisely measured, as have the modern sluggers in the annual All-Star Home Run Derby. That competition has been staged each season since 1985, and, during that time, confirmed 500-foot drives have been quite rare. Mark McGwire participated, and Big Mac, despite his awesome power, never recorded a Home Run Derby drive that flew 500 feet or more. The longest-ever drive was struck by Sammy Sosa at the 2002 competition at Milwaukee’s Miller Park. It was scientifically estimated at 524 feet. However, there was an important sub-plot at work: most close observers to the Derby felt that MLB was using extra-lively balls to allow its showcase performers to shine even more brightly than usual. There is no evidence that this practice is still in effect, but, back in 2002, those Home Run Derby balls were juiced.

So, when and where did Babe Ruth get his lone opportunity to challenge his successors to the all-time long-distance crown? It happened on October 4, 1925 before a post season exhibition game at Archo Field on Long Island, New York. That was the year when Ruth suffered through his worst season due to health issues centering on his mysterious stomach ailment. By season’s end, Babe appeared to have been fully recovered, but he suddenly relapsed in late September. Not only that, but he also sprained his ankle. Accordingly, when he arrived on Long Island where his long drives would be marked by wooden stakes and subsequently measured with a steel tape, his chances for a historic performance seemed remote.
Yet, it is Babe Ruth we’re talking about, and what happened next was, in fact, truly the essence of legend. Historian Bruce Orser recently discovered all the relevant details, and I was more than pleased to include them in my new book.

Also, I took the opportunity to enhance my theory about why The Bambino never achieved his dream of managing a Major League team. Traditionally, it has been assumed that Ruth was denied the chance because of his wild ways in his early years of professional baseball. For many years now, I have been convinced that that conclusion was unfounded. For my part, I feel that Babe didn’t get to manage because of overt racism. Ruth was very close to the African-American community, and often played exhibition games against Negro league players. Along the way, he often praised the quality of their competition, and it was known that, if he ever managed his own team, Ruth would have invited African Americans onto his roster. That story is also included in my new e-book.

Naturally, most of the content focuses on Babe Ruth’s extraordinary power. I tell that tale by singling out ten of his most prodigious homers, and creating detailed accounts of how far they flew and how they ultimately shaped his unique legend. Along the way, I have included many of the word-for-word accounts written by the original giants of sports writing who were there to witness those historic events.

BRC: Thank you for sharing those great snippets Bill. Where can Babe Ruth fans get a hold of your latest book?:

For anyone interested in acquiring the book and reading it for themselves, the process is quite easy. Since it is an e-book, the price is remarkably low, only $5.99. All the reader has to do is go on-line by way of the following link:

Or, if preferable, anyone can simply access any of the current major on-line book providers such as Barnes & Noble, iBooks, Bookbaby and all other e-publishing outlets.

BRC Thanks for sharing Bill. Always a pleasure to catch up!

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