Babe Ruth and the Creation of the Celebrity Athlete


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About the Book

From his first year in the majors, George Herman “Babe” Ruth knew he could profit from celebrity. Babe Ruth Cigars in 1915 marked his first attempt to cash in. Traded to the Yankees in 1920, he soon signed with Christy Walsh, baseball’s first publicity agent.
Walsh realized that stories of great deeds in sports were a commodity, and in 1921 sold Ruth’s ghostwritten byline to a newspaper syndicate for $15,000 ($187,000 today). Ruth hit home runs while Walsh’s writers made him a hero, crafting his public image as a lovable scalawag.
Were the stories true? It didn’t matter—they sold. Many survive but have never been scrutinized until now. Drawing on primary sources, this book examines the stories, separating exaggerated facts from clear falsehoods. This book traces Ruth’s ascendance as the first great media-created superstar and celebrity product endorser.

About the Author(s)

Thomas Barthel, a professor emeritus in the State University of New York system, has written seven books. He lives in Clinton, New York.

Bibliographic Details

Thomas Barthel
Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 286
Bibliographic Info: 33 photos, appendices, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2018
pISBN: 978-1-4766-6532-0
eISBN: 978-1-4766-2662-8
Imprint: McFarland

Book Reviews & Awards

• “Heavily researched and detailed…an important contribution to understanding Ruth’s prominent place in American cultural and marketing history…recommended”—Choice

• “You [will] come away feeling you know [Ruth] better than before you read the book”—SABR Deadball Committee Newsletter

• “[Barthel] addresses a topic that has been largely overlooked in earlier works—Ruth and money—and in this way makes a valuable contribution to the ever-burgeoning Babe Ruth canon.”—Nine

• “Much has been written about Ruth, but as someone who teaches sports marketing, I really appreciate the angle taken by Barthel, who reveals how the most marketable athlete of his day parlayed great celebrity into business opportunities.  This book has much to offer baseball fans and marketing scholars alike.”—John Fortunato, author of Sports Sponsorship: Principles and Practices and Commissioner: The Legacy of Pete Rozelle