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SIOUX CITY -- Babe Ruth, the most famous baseball player in U.S. history, visited Sioux City and other Siouxland areas many times, with a very notable appearance coming in 1927, right after he set a single-season record by jacking 60 home runs.

Author Jane Leavy, in the book "The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and The World He Created," chronicles his October 1927 Sioux City stop in one of 18 chapters that summarize "the mother of all barnstorming tours, a three-week victory lap."

Each chapter cites Ruth's activities in one city, while giving a flavor of his personal life and baseball career in a series of flashbacks.

Former Journal Sports Editor Terry Hersom wrote in 2015 that Leavy, a former Washington Post sports writer with previous baseball biographies on Sandy Koufax and Mickey Mantle, was seeking sources in retracing the 1927 tour that brought Ruth to Stockyards Ballpark in Sioux City. That stop came less than two weeks after the Yankees, an extremely stacked club some consider the all-time best, finished off a World Series sweep of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

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Leavy's book, published in 2018, shows Ruth didn't mess around during those days of traveling by train, making essentially a stop per day in a new city, and with many community events besides exhibition games. He hit the Midwest by the middle of the trek, with October 15 in Kansas City, October 16 in Omaha, October 17 in Des Moines and the next day in Sioux City.

The fascinating Kansas City chapter cites Ruth having many stops, including one to the Wheatley-Provident Hospital for Negro Children, where he was photographed holding a black baby. Leavy shows the photo later appeared in two prominent African American newspapers, and added fuel to ongoing speculation on Ruth's origins. Before he became a Yankee, his teammates on the Boston Red Sox called him a series Negro-related slurs.

In the days before MLB became integrated, Leavy writes, "Like others in the black community, Negro Leaguers wondered, gossiped, and made happy assumptions about his racial background." For his part, Ruth at times jawed with players who cited him as not being purely Caucasian, in anecdotes Leavy shares.

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On October 18, 1927, Ruth came to Sioux City, and the Journal headline of the day read, "5,000 S.C. FANS SEE BABE RUTH HIT HOMER." Ruth and a team of area baseball players donned uniforms with the name “Bustin’ Babes,’’ while teammate Lou Gehrig and another batch of Siouxlanders took the field as the “Larrupin’ Lous.’’

Leavy sets up the chapter by describing Ruth's afternoon stop, before the game, at a "genteel gathering" at 3723 Jackson St. at the home of John "Jiggs" Donohue, wife Jo, and the family's kids, Jimmie, Phil, Jack, Kenny and four-month old twins, Tommy and Joanne. There were many other visitors as well.

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Dudley Scott, who owned two theaters 25 miles away in Le Mars, Iowa, shot 16m film at the Donohue gathering, showing guests "wearing their Sunday best on a Monday." Ruth climbed on a Donohue pet pony named Molly, and Leavy framed that episode as emblematic for how Ruth honed his growing power of celebrity in the Roaring Twenties, which is a key topic in "The Big Fella."

"Once, twice, three times, he bounced up and down, trying to get comfortable...Dudley Scott got it all: Gehrig's grinning so broadly at the sheer contagious joy of Ruth's impulsivity that it looked like his dimples might drill through his cheeks. This was the Babe at his best, serving the two masters whose authority he never defied: the need to please and he need to be seen," Leavy writes.

Ruth's 714 career home runs were the most in Major League Baseball history until Hank Aaron passed him in 1974.

The Sioux City chapter also was the book's portion that lengthily discussed Ruth's relationship with women, including a first marriage to Helen Woodford and subsequent one with Claire Merritt Hodgson. The chapter ends with mentions of national newspaper accounts of the Sioux City pony ride, including one in The San Francisco Examiner that opined whether Ruth was too big for the small horse.

"This was the predicament of the size of his frame: every gesture, grimace, and offhand remark could catch up with him. For someone described by New York Times reporter John Debinger as 'the most uninhibited man' he'd ever met, learning discretion was not just difficult, it was antithetical to his entire being. But he was trying," Leavy writes.

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