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Art Folio: Decatur Author Chronicles N.Y. Yankees First Championship

Baseball is a new game, "The Babe" is slamming homers and sell out crowds are flocking to "The House that Ruth Built"

It’s 1923 and Babe Ruth of the New York Yankees is about to make his comeback.

Determined to leave behind the disgrace of losing the 1922 World Series to the New York Giants and his reputation as a cantankerous, burned out player, “The Sultan of Swat” is about to make history in the brand new Yankee Stadium. 

After swearing off alcohol and spending the winter at his Massachusetts farm chopping wood and shoveling snow, the man who is credited with changing baseball forever was back and in phenomenal condition — bigger and stronger than ever.

“This part of baseball history is exciting and not much is written about it,” said Decatur author Robert Weintraub of his new book “The House that Ruth Built.”

Almost overnight the game changed from low-scoring strategy driven games that allowed spit balls and unlimited foul balls to high-scoring games that relied on players’ strength to power in home runs.

Back then, the New York Yankees were treated like second class citizens, said Weintraub. That viewpoint was evident in Feb. 1921 when Giant manager John McGraw and owner Charles Stoneham kicked the Yankees out of the Polo Grounds, a playing field they shared with the Giants for eight years, and were told to find a home of their own.  

Banking on the growing popularity of the Yankees despite Ruth’s hitting slump, Yankee co-owners purchased land for a stadium directly across the Harlem River from the Polo Grounds. The triple deck stadium, the first of its kind, cost $2.5 million to build, seated 58,000 and was built in 284 days.  

In an excerpt from “The House That Ruth Built,” Weintraub takes readers to baseball’s opening day April 18, 1923.

“As McGraw turned toward the water on the 155th Street viaduct, passing over the Harlem River Speedway, built for horse and carriage but now crammed with automobiles, the enemy’s fortress came in to view. McGraw scowled. The building in front of him, just across the river in the Bronx, was the scene of today’s game and the cause of much of the manager’s agita—the brand new Yankee Stadium.”

Weintraub, who was born in New York City and grew up in Rye, N.Y., about 20 minutes away from Yankee stadium, said he’s always been a big fan of baseball, but didn’t know much about this part of baseball history. Research led him to New York’s public libraries and the Baseball of Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

Decatur spots such as the library and local coffee shops and were frequent haunts. “I wrote a considerable chunk of the book on my laptop at Dancing Goats in Decatur.” Weintraub lives in Decatur with his wife Lorie, daughter Phoebe and son Marty.

On April 18 Weintraub will appear on WABE Morning Edition and that evening at the he will read from his book at 7:15 p.m. The event is sponsored by the Georgia Center for the Book. Copies of the book will be available for purchase and signing by the author.

Weintraub is a sports columnist for Slate, contributes to the annual Football Outsiders Almanac, and has written regularly for Deadspin.com, ESPN.com, The Guardian, and Play magazine, among other media. He is also a freelance television producer working for Turner Broadcasting.

Art  Shots

Summer Camp enrollment, PushPush Theatre, 121 New St. Summer theater camps focus on a classic text and will use theater film and improve to enhance participants’ skills. Camp dates are: June 13 to July 1, Jull 11 to 29.

Jazz Nights at Historic Scottish Rite, 321 W. Hill St., April 21 and 28, 7 p.m. The candlelight concert series is held in the Scottish Rite courtyard, 321 W. Hill St. Concerts are free, thanks to local sponsors. www.oakhurstjazznights.com for details on tables.

CD release party for Mike Killeen’s “Poverty is Real,” Eddie’s Attic, 515-B N. McDonough St. April 22. Shows, 7 p.m. and 9:30 p.m. Part of proceeds benefit .

Think Global/Act Local’ benefit, Academy Theatre, 119 Center St., April 23. Benefit for victims of disaster in Japan and for Actor’s Express. “The Prestige,” rock musicians, Jeff Blanks & Matthew Trautwein, headline event with Michael Richardson and other guests. Tickets $10 on line and $15 at door. Prizes auction items and more.

Spring Concert, Children’s Community Choir, April 26, 7 to 8 p.m., Avondale Estates First Baptist Church, 47 Covington Rd. Classical works, spirituals and selections for the Broadway Musical “Annie.” Reception following performance. Free. 

“From Fur to Feathers,” art exhibit, The Seen Gallery, 415 Church St. April 30 to May 25. Exhibit focuses on abandoned and displaced animals. Ten percent of proceeds from the show go to Ahimsa House (www.ahimsahouse.org). April 30, and Sunday, May 1, organizations offer animals for adoption. To become involved call 404-377-0733.

Decatur Arts Festival Poster unveiled, Old Courthouse on the Square, May 5, 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Be the first one to see the artwork from Decatur resident, Mary Pousner.  Free.

4th Annual Art-B-Que, May 7 and 8. Fun for the entire family, more than 100 artists and 30 bands, a kid’s zone, bar-b-que and more. Franklin St. Avondale Estates.

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