H. "Babe" Ruth's grave sits in a cemetery
in Hawthorne, New York.
— If Babe Ruth were to walk into what was his father’s
bar, Ruth’s Cafe on Eutaw Street, he’d never recognize
it. Based on his legendary habits, he’d likely enjoy his
visit — Ruth’s Cafe is now a gentlemen’s club called
The Goddess — but he wouldn’t recognize it.
the 98 years since Ruth bought the building for his
father, George Sr., walls have been knocked down, the tin
ceiling removed and a dancer’s pole installed.
following is a history-hunting dream for ardent baseball
fans making the pilgrimage to Baltimore, home of baseball’s
this 100th anniversary month of Ruth’s entry into
professional baseball, The Goddess is one of several
Baltimore-area locations connected to Ruth that can still
be found. Some go largely unnoticed, like the church where
he was married; others are more obvious, such as the Babe
Ruth Birthplace and Museum.
are one of the most profound buildings in the baseball
world, outside of ballparks and the Hall of Fame,"
said Michael Gibbons, executive director of the
birthplace. "This building is very important to
baseball. The birthplace is a mecca for baseball
museum (baberuthmuseum.org) has big plans for this year;
it’s working on funding an exhibit and film on the
commemoration of 1914 and is considering tours of some
Herman Ruth Jr. was born on Feb. 6, 1895, in the home of
his maternal grandfather. A few days later, he and his
mother, Kate, returned to the family home, where he would
spend the first four years of his life. The Ruths then
moved to a row house where he lived for three years before
being sent off to St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys,
an orphanage/ boarding school/ reformatory. His contact
with his family after that was infrequent.
Feb. 14, 1914, Jack Dunn, owner of the minor league
Baltimore Orioles, came to St. Mary’s and signed Ruth to
his first professional contract. He started that season
with the Orioles, then in July was sold to the American
League’s Boston Red Sox. He played in five games for
Boston before being sent to the team’s minor league club
in Providence, R.I. By 1915, he was back in Boston, on his
way to greatness.
what is left of Ruth’s early days? Plenty. You just need
to know where to look.
Ruth Birthplace and Museum: The row house at 216 Emory St.
is where Ruth was born in a second-floor bedroom. The
house belonged to his mother’s father, Pius Schamberger,
an upholsterer. After decades of neglect, it was renovated
into a shrine to Ruth from 1969-72 and opened in 1974.
room where Ruth came into the world has been furnished
with period pieces: a large bed, a washstand, a dresser, a
sewing machine, a fireplace. The furniture was selected by
Babe’s sister, Mamie Ruth Moberly, who helped re-create
birthplace holds numerous treasures. There’s a photo of
Ruth as a toddler at a gigantic family gathering. There is
a display case that contains a copy of Ruth’s 1910-era
hymnal from St. Mary’s (in it, he signed his name —
probably the oldest Ruth autograph extant — and wrote
"world’s worse (sic) singer, world’s best
pitcher.") Also on display is an old catcher’s mitt
attributed to his St. Mary’s days.
first house: There’s a long, white two-story building at
the intersection of Font Hill and Frederick avenues, now
boarded up and forgotten. Its last life was as a church.
But in 1895, it recently has been determined, this was
where the Ruth family lived with George Sr.’s brother
second home: This one’s exact location has also only
recently been confirmed. George Sr. had a tavern at 339
South Woodyear St., a blocklong street that’s in pretty
dismal shape. The family lived above the tavern from
1897-1901. While living here, Babe was deemed incorrigible
and shipped off to reform school. He was 7.
Mary’s: Ruth’s home from 1902-1914, this is where he
learned tailoring and where he became a ballplayer.
like to think of it as baseball’s hallowed ground
because that’s where baseball’s greatest player
learned to play the game," Gibbons said.
of the facility (3225 Wilkens Ave.) burned down in 1919
— Ruth helped raise funds for reconstruction — and St.
Mary’s closed in 1950. From the early ‘60s it was
Cardinal Gibbons High School, later the Cardinal Gibbons
School, but it closed in 2010. Part of the campus will be
redeveloped, but the Fine Arts Building, where Ruth was
educated, and the baseball field are safe.
layout of the diamond has been reversed over time. Home
plate now is in what would have been deepest center field
in Babe’s day, and where he batted is at the opposite
end, near the Fine Arts Building.
Paul’s Catholic Church: Ruth and Helen Woodford met in
Boston during the 1914 season, and he brought her back to
Baltimore to get married. For reasons not entirely clear
— perhaps there was a shorter waiting period — they
traveled the nine miles to Ellicott City, Md., to tie the
would have had to take the streetcar out," said
Gloria Baer, an office assistant at St. Paul’s Catholic
Church (3755 Saint Paul St.), where the ceremony was held.
"That was the only way to get here."
church has been remodeled twice since the October 1914
wedding, but the stained-glass windows, altar and several
of the statues are original. In the vestibule is a
showcase with a copy of Babe and Helen’s marriage
Goddess: Babe bought his father this tavern with his 1915
World Series check, or so the story goes.
owner George Kritikos is giving The Goddess (38 S. Eutaw
St.) a major interior makeover to go with a completed
exterior renovation. Kritikos has numerous Ruth photos on
display, including a copy of a famous shot showing the two
spiffy-looking Georges (father and son) behind the bar.
is one other bit of Ruth history tied to the building. On
Aug. 24, 1918, there was an altercation out front. Ruth’s
father was involved and fell or was knocked down and hit
his head. He died of the injuries.
Park at Camden Yards: One Ruth site that’s just a memory
lies about 20 paces into short center field at the
ballpark, on the shortstop side of the field. This was the
location of another of George Ruth Sr.’s taverns.
Newlywed Babe lived there after the 1914 season. When the
ballpark was being built in the early 1990s, architectural
preservationists were called in. They knew where the
building had been. They consulted with Babe’s sister,
who told them where the privies were located in relation
to the house, and were able to recover some relics.
dishes, nothing profound," Gibbons said. "But
you could tell there was a restaurant or a tavern there at
goodbye: Ruth’s career took him from Boston to New York
when the Yankees bought him in 1919. He became America’s
hero, and Baltimore generally was forgotten.
he signs with the Orioles and goes on his way, after that
first season, 1914, he brought Helen home and married
her," Gibbons said. "In 1915, ‘16, ‘17 and
‘18, he was here. But then the old man died in 1918. His
sister had married, his mother had died, so there really
was no reason for him to come back."
place to start the hunt for Babe Ruth is at his birthplace
museum, about a 20-minute drive from Baltimore-Washington
International Thurgood Marshall Airport. Warning: Parking
can be a challenge.
The neighborhood near the birthplace has a Hampton Inn,
Marriott and Hilton, among other hotels.
Quigley’s Half-Irish Pub (633 Portland St.), just down
from the birthplace museum, caters to locals and visitors.
MISS: The Sports Legends Museum (301 W. Camden St.) is
likewise a short walk from the birthplace museum (follow
the baseballs painted on the sidewalk). Housed in a former
train station that Abraham Lincoln passed through six
times, including his funeral train, the museum focuses on
Maryland sports history. There are Babe Ruth items, of
course. But there’s much more, including a temporary
exhibit of the work of sports photographer Neil Leifer.