In 1921, a young, ambitious Christy Walsh had an audacious idea: he wanted to take the most popular athlete in the world and make him even more popular. The athlete was Babe Ruth, coming off a 1920 season where he hit 54 home runs, breaking his previous record of 29. And the medium was newspapers.
Walsh envisioned a ghostwriting syndicate that would not only capitalize on the popularity of players, but would make those athletes even more popular in the process. The athletes loved it—they got money for nothing. The readers couldn't get enough. And the ghostwriters—mostly sportswriters—were glad for the moonlight pay. The only thing that suffered, as author Jonathan Eig points out in his biography of Lou Gehrig, The Luckiest Man, was journalism. "Walsh compromised a lot of solid reporters, turning them into fawning propagandists."
Not that Walsh minded. In fact, the Babe Ruth Scrapbooks—compiled by Walsh himself—reflect the fruits of his labor. The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum has conserved and safeguarded the twenty-five volumes for decades in Cooperstown. Now, all of the books are available for anyone to explore digitally at collection.baseballhall.org. HistoryIT's Babe Ruth Digital Scrapbooks site provides visitors with more context about the pages and items within them.
This first volume, as displayed on this digital interactive, covers the offseason of 1921-1922, during which Ruth was involved in two high-profile stories: his first vaudeville tour, and Commissioner Judge Landis' decision regarding Ruth's punishment for violating a rule prohibiting barnstorming to players from World Series team.
Walsh collected interviews, reviews, profiles, and editorials—even articles that only mentioned Ruth in passing. He clipped stories from various newspapers, even if they came from the same wire services, so many articles are nearly identical. He pasted them into scrapbooks in no apparent order. The results are sometimes messy. But the scrapbooks provide a glimpse of Babe Ruth as seen by newspaper readers of the day.
You can explore the pages of the Babe Ruth Digital Scrapbooks one-by-one, including by zooming in and out. Or you can click on any article for a closer view. Share widely and don't forget to go to collection.baseballhall.org to discover more stories in these scrapbooks!