George Herman “Babe” Ruth is widely regarded as the most recognized American sports icon. In 1902 at age 7 disheartened parents abruptly delivered him to an “orphanage”. Called incorrigible” his father coldly turned and walked away. Emotionally scarred Ruth forever craved acceptance. Painfully he mistook the exploitation of his talents for emotional bonding. Decades later his emotional void finally filled by the love of a strong and determined woman.
At the turn of the 20th century, popular American sports had fallen prey to the evil influence of gamblers, baseball was not immune. In a game controlled by mean spirited and cheap owners, players were the real victim: chattel tossed aside when no longer having purpose. Impoverished players easily lured into the web of deceit. In 1903 with the advent of the World Series, the stakes increased. Players had big paydays altering the outcomes. Baseball’s little secret hidden until 1919 when news shocking the nation broke. The World Series was fixed!
Enter a self-serving and biased federal judge handed absolute power to save the crumbling sport. He looked for help in the one player unapproachable by gamblers. In Ruth, Landis found a perfect and unsuspecting accomplice for control over every aspect of baseball. Ruth, with popularity soaring, was not controllable. A second scandal erupts in 1926 threatening to end the Landis grip on baseball. Never more fragile, the game was on the precipice to status as another corrupt sport. Landis looked to Ruth once again. This time Ruth wanted assurances about his future.
This is the remarkable journey of Ruth’s assault on the baseball record book including his attempt to surpass the unreachable record of 511 wins as pitcher. He meets an assortment of unique characters and experiences colorful events; leading to a dramatic showdown with his chief adversary, Commissioner Landis.
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What a great story, a 65 year old Alexandria man realizes his simple dream, having a book published. And he didn’t choose just any benign subject as the topic but, a sports legend that has been written about hundreds of times. He found an imaginative twist that no one had before. That’s the tour d ‘force combination of perseverance and creativity.
** FILE ** Retired Yankees slugger Babe Ruth warms up with three bats before stepping to the plate at New York's Yankee Stadium, in an August 21, 1942 photo. He was 40, with a pot belly that couldn't be supported by his spindly legs and a growing realization his career was over. His batting average hovered nearly 200 points below his career mark, and his pitchers were unhappy with his inability to run down even the easiest of fly balls. (AP Photo/Tom Sande, file)
** FILE ** Retired Yankees slugger Babe Ruth warms up with three bats before stepping to the plate at New York’s Yankee Stadium, in an August 21, 1942 photo. He was 40, with a pot belly that couldn’t be supported by his spindly legs and a growing realization his career was over. His batting average hovered nearly 200 points below his career mark, and his pitchers were unhappy with his inability to run down even the easiest of fly balls. (AP Photo/Tom Sande, file)
Last month marked the 67th anniversary of the death of baseball’s mythical and most widely recognized player, who also cornered the market on nicknames: the Great Bambino, the Sultan of Swat, the Caliph of Clout. Everyone knows that Babe Ruth could make a baseball majestically disappear beyond the outfield walls. In fact, he did so 714 times. Ralph Peluso, a local resident and author, says, “Hold on, Ruth was much more than that. So much more he would have broken the all-time wins record for a pitcher of 511.”
In his fictional work, 512, he takes the reader on a mesmerizing journey through the life and altered career of the incomparable George Herman ‘Babe’ Ruth.
The journey is rich and detailed in baseball history. There is an abundance of very colorful characters that touch and shape Ruth’s new path. Ralph effectively uses vignettes and time shifts to develop these characters, both friend and foe, and guide the Ruth march to baseball immortality. For a novice author, he seamlessly blends fact and fiction with the ease of a more experienced novelist. I found myself googling to fact check. (I guessed wrong nearly every time.)
The author does not allow the story to labor on the most common views of Ruth: a big fat drunk, a crude oaf as depicted by John Goodman, or the lame character portrayal by William Bendix, in their movie roles. With the calculation of a chess player, Ralph draws you into an emotionally scarred Ruth who is repeatedly abandoned or disappointed by the father figures in his life. Ruth is resolute and driven to succeed. He fights through each adversity and the evils surrounding the game. Ruth emerges as baseball’s first true full blown superstar. Of course he had the help of a strong willed woman, his second wife Claire. (There is always a good woman behind a strong man). The fun loving side of Ruth is there, just not Ruth the fool. There are sub-plots aplenty as the story navigates through Ruth’s career, including a fifteen year battle of wills with the game’s nasty commissioner.
Before reading 512, I had no idea how good of a pitcher Ruth was. Peluso said, “Ruth was considered among the top five pitchers by age 23! As he matured there is little doubt he’d have been seen as the best pitcher of his day. ”
Ralph is a ‘card carrying’ member of the “Society of American Baseball Researchers” (SABR) but he did not use statistics to rule his story or justify Ruth’s ability to succeed in breaking Cy Young’s record. He weaves tale after tale in the fabric of the book validating Ruth’s chase. Ruth needed baseball; and baseball desperately needed a hero, the perfect symbiotic relationship.
Although the book is stockpiled in history and facts, I never felt mired in them, nor did I tire of the fascinating characters dotting each chapter. This baseball themed book has plenty of baseball lore, but it is not just for sports fans. 512 will appeal to a broad audience, and keep reader’s attention.
512 is a captivating yarn, with a very different perspective on baseball’s most iconic figure. Ruth’s life and personae has been told and retold, but never presented from this author’s angle.
I enjoy baseball; I understand its basics and recognize the names of today’s stars. But I’m not a fanatic. After reading the book, I was convinced Ruth had actually won 512 games. (Ruth didn’t, I googled it.)
Alexandrian Author Ralph Peluso. Courtesy photo.
Alexandrian Autho Ralph Peluso. Courtesy photo.
Ralph Peluso was born in the New York City in 1950. He told me pinstripes run through his blood. After 45 successful years in business, Ralph turned to his early life passion, creating stories. With the support and encouragement of his caring wife, he pushed forward with his dream. Beating long odds, Solstice Publishing made his dream a reality.
Ralph is a member of SABR’s Overlooked Legends Committee. He helps identify potential Hall of Fame candidates who played the pre-1900 era. He has been active in the Northern Virginia Junior CYO for over twenty years and is an avid sports fan.
I asked him if he could write a successful outcome to this year’s Washington Nationals season.
He laughed and quipped, “Now that would be some real story telling”
512 gets five zebra stripes out of five!