He wrote about horse racing and track and field, and he worked as an editor, but Mr. Creamer was best known as a baseball writer. He attended his first major league game in 1931 and as a boy remembered seeing Ruth — the larger-than-life slugger of the New York Yankees — launch titanic home runs.
In his biography, “Babe: The Legend Comes to Life,” Mr. Creamer sorted the facts of Ruth’s life from the many myths that grew around him. When it was published in 1974, the book was hailed by writer Roger Angell in the New York Times Book Review as “perhaps the best portrait yet . . . of an American sports hero.”
Mr. Creamer depicted Ruth, who grew up in Baltimore and died in 1948, as a man of gargantuan appetites for food, drink and women. But he also showed Ruth as a gifted athlete who, despite his reputation for hedonism, dominated his sport like no one else.
When Ruth retired in 1935 with 714 home runs, no other player had hit as many as 400. (Hank Aaron surpassed Ruth’s record in 1974, the same year Mr. Creamer’s biography was published.)
Mere numbers, however, do not fully capture the magic of Ruth — or of Mr. Creamer’s sensitive, elegantly written biography.
“If you like baseball,” he wrote in the book, “you remember the pretty things about the game — the individual moments of craftsmanship and, sometimes, artistry within the mathematical precision of three strikes, three outs, four balls, four bases, nine innings, nine men. Ruth, easing along at three-quarter speed in batting practice, stepping into the pitch, flicking the bat around, meeting the ball cleanly, cocking the bat back for the next pitch, is for me . . . the epitome of baseball, its ideal expression.”
The book’s stature has only grown with time. When Mr. Creamer published his 1984 biography of Stengel, the astute manager known for his comic malapropisms, Washington Post book critic Jonathan Yardley wrote, “Now it can be said that Creamer has written the two best American sports biographies.”
Stengel led the Yankees to seven World Series championships between 1949 and 1958 and later managed the hapless New York Mets. “I been in this game a hundred years,” Stengel said about his Mets, “but I see new ways to lose I never knew existed.”
In “Stengel: His Life and Times,” Mr. Creamer relished Stengel’s comedic qualities but also drew a canny comparison between the baseball manager and a fellow Missourian, writer Mark Twain:
“Both were thought of primarily as purveyors of humor yet both were intensely serious about their work, and both had a hard, almost brutal streak of reality in their makeup, coupled with a sarcastic cutting contempt for people who didn’t measure up.”