Jane Leavy is the author of the New York Times bestsellers Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy; The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood; and the comic novel Squeeze Play, which Entertainment Weekly called “the best novel ever written about baseball.” Her writing is featured in The Great American Sports Page: A Century of Classic Columns from Ring Lardner to Sally Jenkins, published this year by the Library of America, alongside sportswriting luminaries Jimmy Cannon, Damon Runyon, Red Smith, and others.
Her latest book, The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created, was named a best best book of 2018 by the Boston Globe, Publishers Weekly, Kirkus Reviews, Newsweek, the Philadelphia Inquirer, and the Progressive. It won the 2019 Society for American Baseball Research Seymour Medal, which honors the best book of baseball history or biography each year. It was a finalist for the PEN/ESPN Award for Literary Sports Writing and the National Book Critics Circle Award for biography and was long-listed for Spitball’s Casey Award for Best Baseball Book of the Year.
Leavy was a staff writer at womenSports and Self magazines before joining the Washington Post, where she worked from 1979 to 1988, first in sports, then in the style section. She covered baseball, tennis, and the Olympics and wrote features about sports, politics, and pop culture for the paper. She has written for the New York Times, Newsweek, Sports Illustrated, the Village Voice, and the New York Daily News. Her work has been anthologized in many collections, including The Best American Sports Writing, of which she was editor in 2011.
She grew up on Long Island where she pitched briefly and poorly for the Blue Jays of the Roslyn Little League. As a child, she worshipped Mickey Mantle from the second-floor ballroom in the Concourse Plaza Hotel where her grandmother’s synagogue held services on the High Holidays. On her parents’ first date, her father, a water boy for the 1927 New York Giants (football), took her mother to a Brooklyn College football game. She retaliated by taking him to Loehmann’s after the final whistle. It was a template for their sixty-three-year union.
Leavy attended Barnard College and Columbia Journalism School, where she wrote her master’s thesis (later published in the Village Voice) on Red Smith, the late sports columnist for the New York Times who was her other childhood hero. She has two adult children, Nick and Emma Isakoff, and she lives in Washington, DC, and Truro, Massachusetts.
The Big Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created (2018)
The Last Boy: Mickey Mantle and the End of America’s Childhood (2010)
Sandy Koufax: A Lefty’s Legacy (2002)
Squeeze Play (1990)
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Jane Leavy’s website
Q&A with Leavy on C-SPAN, December 24, 2018
“Epic Babe Ruth Bio Captures His Life and Times,” Forbes, October 25, 2018
“What It Took to Write About Baseball as a Woman,” the New Yorker, October 15, 2018
Video: Leavy on Babe Ruth at the Library of Congress