I was bouncing around on eBay a couple of weeks back and came across a book of which I had no prior knowledge. Kentucky Babe is a biography of Babe Parilli, written by Dick Burdette and published in 2011. Parilli had just passed away on July 15 of this year, and thus was at the forefront of my AFL mind. I made the purchase, and began reading on my flight to Chicago.
Kentucky Babe runs 391 pages, and covers Parilli’s life from his birth in 1930 through the Jets’ victory in Super Bowl III. The book was well-researched, and packed full of information. As the title may suggest, I felt that the author dug a bit deeper into Parilli’s collegiate years than he did his professional career. The chapters covering Babe’s college days were full of detailed stories, lots of interaction with Coach Bear Bryant, and in-depth information about the turnaround of the Kentucky squad with Parilli under center.
In contrast, the sections that focused on Babe’s professional career were rather bland. I got through his NFL years pretty quickly, in anticipation of learning something new about the 1960s Patriots. Sadly, I was disappointed, as the great bulk of these times were covered by simple paragraphs about each game. Scores and a few specific situations were detailed, but the text was otherwise quite free of good, anecdotal material. Unfortunately it made something of a dry story about one of just 20 men to play all 10 seasons of the AFL.
I was also a bit disappointed with the book essentially ending after Super Bowl III. Parilli played one more season (the last of the AFL), and retired prior to the merger. I felt that these would have been interesting points to provide in more detail, but they were not even mentioned. The epilogue jumps straight to the Immaculate Reception game in 1972, when Babe was on Chuck Noll’s staff with the Steelers, and from the coaches’ box called in the play that became so famous. A neat tidbit, but I had hoped for something more. There are 12 pages of black-and-white photos roughly one-third of the way into the book, but the AFL years are represented by only four images.
In the end, I was somewhat disappointed with the book. Granted, I have an AFL bias, but I did feel that “The Other League” got shorted in this literary effort. The research was robust, but more prominent in some areas than others. The book could have done with a strong editor as well, as it was littered with typos and other inconsistencies.
Would I recommend the the book to a friend? If that friend loved college football, then I would likely mention it. If professional football was my buddy’s preference, then I doubt it would enter the discussion.