Posts tagged St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys

The Mystery Of The Stone Building At The St. Mary’s Industrial School For Boys Site

Near the southeast corner of Wilkins Avenue and Caton Avenue in Baltimore, Maryland, is a four story stone building that once housed St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys and, later, Cardinal Gibbons High School. There seems to be a general assumption that this building dates to the time that Babe Ruth attended St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys (1902 – 1914) because it’s architecture is similar to buildings that once comprised the St. Mary’s Industrial School complex, but were destroyed by a fire at the school in 1919.

Four Story Stone Building Located On Former Site Of St. Mary's Industrial School For Boys, Baltimore, Maryland

Four Story Stone Building Located On Former Site Of St. Mary’s Industrial School For Boys, Baltimore, Maryland

Below is an Xaverian Brothers’ photograph of St. Mary’s Industrial School, circa 1911, as it looked at the time Babe Ruth was a “student” there. The main administrative building complex, which included both dormitories and classrooms, fronted Wilkins Avenue. The St. Mary’s Industrial School Chapel, constructed in 1911, was located at the corner of Wilkins Avenue and Caton Avenue, and can be seen to the right of the photo as well. The separate dormitory  and classroom building, which can be seen to the left of the photo, was constructed in 1909.

St. Mary's Industrial School For Boys, Before the 1919 Fire

Xaverian Brothers Photo of St. Mary’s Industrial School For Boys, Circa 1911, before the 1919 Fire

The main entrance to the complex included a six-story tower with a circular drive in front of the tower that was accessible from Wilkins Avenue.

Front Entrance To St. Mary's Industrial School, In 1919, Before Fire That Destroyed the Building Later That Year (Baltimore Sun Photo)

Front Entrance To St. Mary’s Industrial School In 1919, Before Fire That Destroyed The Building Later That Year (Baltimore Sun Photo)

The 1919 fire destroyed the main administrative building complex that fronted Wilkins Avenue, including the dormitory that was completed just ten years earlier. Although the stone walls of the dormitory and the building to the left of the front entrance appear to be somewhat intact even after the fire, it appears that the stone walls of the buildings located just to the right of the front entrance sustained considerably more damage. The chapel, which can be seen in the photo as well, sustained only smoke and water damage.

St. Mary's Industrial School in 1919, After the Fire (Photo by Hildegarde Anderson of 3236 Ravenswood Avenue, Baltimore Sun Reprint of Hildegarde photo, 1962).

St. Mary’s Industrial School Looking Southeast Down Wilkins Avenue, After The 1919 Fire (Photo by Hildegarde Anderson of 3236 Ravenswood Avenue, Baltimore Sun Reprint of Hildegarde photo, 1962).

Soon after the fire, an effort was underway to rebuild the school. By 1923, the Xaverian Brothers had completed construction of the four story stone building which remains at the site today.

Stone Building That House St. Mary's Industrial School After the 1919 Fire

Stone Building, St. Mary’s Industrial School, Baltimore, Maryland

The four story building was constructed just east of the chapel. However, the chapel is no longer at the site, having been demolished in 1961 to make way for construction of Cardinal Gibbons High School.

Demolition of St. Mary’s Industrial School Chapel in 1961 (Baltimore Sun Photo, Ralph Robinson photographer)

Demolition Of St. Mary’s Industrial School Chapel In 1961 (Baltimore Sun Photo, Ralph Robinson photographer)

So the question is, whether the four story stone building currently at the site was brand new as of 1923, or whether it predates the fire and was a renovation of a portion of the main administrative building complex not destroyed by the fire.

Aerial View Of St. Mary's Circa 1927, Showing Chapel and Four Story Stone Building Fronting Wilkins Avenue (Maryland Port Administration Aerial Photo - image located at jscholarship.library.jhu.edu)

Aerial View Of St. Mary’s Circa 1927, Showing Chapel And Four Story Stone Building Fronting Wilkins Avenue – with the Chapel Located at the Corner of Caton Avenue and Wilkins Avenue (Maryland Port Administration Aerial Photo – image located at jscholarship.library.jhu.edu)

The answer to this mystery lies partially in the above 1927 aerial photo of the St. Mary’s Industrial School grounds, which shows the placement and location of the chapel and the four story stone building eight years after the fire. Both buildings front Wilkins Avenue (which runs east and west) and the chapel is located at the southeast corner of Wilkins Avenue and Caton Avenue (which runs north and south). Indeed, the chapel’s steeple can be seen in the shadow it casts over Wilkins Avenue. Given the placement of the circular drive (which is visible in the photo as well), the four story stone building at the site today sits just to the west of what would have been the front entrance of the original building complex. However, the front facade of the four story stone building at the site today – with its six columns of windows – does not match the facade of the building(s) that sat just to the west of the front entrance prior to the fire – each of which had four columns of windows.

Four Story Stone Building Located On Former Site Of St. Mary's Industrial School For Boys, Baltimore, Maryland

Four Story Stone Building Located On Former Site Of St. Mary’s Industrial School For Boys, Baltimore, Maryland

Detail of Xaverian Brothers Photo of St. Mary's Industrial School For Boys, Circa 1900, before the 1919 Fire

Detail of Xaverian Brothers Photo Of St. Mary’s Industrial School For Boys, Circa 1900, Before The 1919 Fire

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moreover, even assuming that the four story stone building at the site today predated the 1919 fire and somehow had survived the fire, that building would be evident in photo of the school taken just after the fire. Indeed, the building would have blocked the side view of the chapel in the photo below. However, the side view of the chapel – from front to back –  is clearly visible in the 1919 photo of the fire damage.

Detail of Photo Taken After the Fire (Photo by Hildegarde Anderson of 3236 Ravenswood Avenue, Baltimore Sun Reprint of Hildegarde photo, 1962).

Detail of Photo Taken After The Fire (Photo by Hildegarde Anderson of 3236 Ravenswood Avenue, Baltimore Sun Reprint of Hildegarde photo, 1962).

Thus, it would appear that the four story stone building at the former site of St. Mary’s Industrial School today was new construction in 1923, and not a renovation of a building that was at the site during the time Babe Ruth attended the school. However, I am open to anyone who has any information that might shed additional light on this issue, or flat out knows the answer. If you do, just submit a comment!

Babe Ruth’s Band At St. Mary’s Industrial School For Boys

In February 1914, George Herman “Babe” Ruth signed his first professional baseball contract in the office of Brother Paul Scanlon, the Superintendent of St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys. Babe Ruth’s parents had signed their son over to the Xaverian Brothers when he was eight years old and Brother Paul, as superintendent of the school and Ruth’s legal guardian, was required to sign the player contract on his behalf. Present at the signing that day, in addition to Ruth and Brother Paul, were Jack Dunn, owner of the International League Baltimore Orioles, and Brother Gilbert, the Athletic Director at nearby Mount St. Joseph’s (High School) College (he was a friend of Dunn’s). Prior to that meeting, Dunn and Brother Gilbert had introduced Dunn to Brother Matthias Boutlier (or Boutelier), who was instrumental in helping Ruth develop his baseball skills. Ruth’s contract set his salary at $600 for the season.

Former Site of St. Mary's Industrial School and Babe Ruth Field, Baltimore, Maryland, April 2015

Former Site of St. Mary’s Industrial School and Babe Ruth Field, Baltimore, Maryland, April 2015

The Baltimore Sun reported the signing on February 15, 1914:”[t]he Oriole magnate signed another local player yesterday. The new Bird is George H. Ruth, a pitcher, who played with teams out the Frederick road. Ruth is six feet tall and fanned 22 men in an amateur game last season. He is regarded as a very hard hitter, so Dunn will try him out down South.” On March 2, 1914, prior to Ruth’s departure for Fayetteville, North Carolina, where Dunn’s Orioles held spring training, Brother Paul took Ruth on a tear-filled tour of St. Mary’s so that Ruth could say goodbye to his friends at the school. Brother Paul then accompanied Ruth to Union Station in Baltimore, where he departed for North Carolina, on what was the first of Ruth’s many train rides.

The Famous Bands Of St. Mary's Industrial School, Postcard (T & M Ottenheimer, Baltimore)

The Famous Bands Of St. Mary’s Industrial School, Postcard (T & M Ottenheimer, Baltimore)

Although Ruth later would become the most famous export of St. Mary’s Industrial School, at the time of his departure, it was the St. Mary’s Bands that perhaps had brought the school the most fame in Baltimore and around the country (John Phillips Sousa is said to have stated that St. Mary’s was the best high school band he had ever heard).

St. Mary's Industrial School Souvenir Program, Annual Concert, April 24, 1914 Image Huggins and Scott Auctions)

St. Mary’s Industrial School Souvenir Program, Annual Concert, April 24, 1914 Image (Huggins and Scott Auctions)

On April 24, 1914, just a month and a half after Ruth departed the school, St. Mary’s held its Annual Concert. Included in the school program was a now-famous photo of Ruth and his teammates, who in 1914 were league champions (according to the photo). The photo depicts the team grouped in front of the school’s bandstand or gazebo. Exactly five years to the day after that concert was performed, a fire started by a errant piece of coal destroyed most of the buildings at St. Mary’s.

St. Mary's Industrial School Baseball Team Photo 1914 (Image Huggins and Scott Auctions)

St. Mary’s Industrial School Baseball Team Photo 1914 (Image Huggins and Scott Auctions)

The fire destroyed the main school building, although the chapel that sat at the corner of South Caton Avenue and Wilkins Avenue was spared.

St. Mary's Industrial School in 1919, After the Fire (Photo by Hildegarde Anderson of 3236 Ravenswood Avenue, Baltimore Sun Reprint of Hildegarde photo, 1962).

St. Mary’s Industrial School in 1919, After the Fire (Photo by Hildegarde Anderson of 3236 Ravenswood Avenue, Baltimore Sun Reprint of Hildegarde photo, 1962).

At the time of the devastating fire, Ruth was a member of the New York Yankees and well on his way to becoming a baseball legend. When Ruth learned of the fire he was determined to find a way to rebuild the school. Although it is not clear who’s idea it was, Ruth helped the school raise money through a tour by the St. Mary’s Industrial School Band. Brother John Sterne, who as an adolescent attended St. Mary’s, played in the band on that tour and years later recounted the event: “[d]uring the last road trip of the 1920 season, Babe sponsored the St. Mary’s Band to travel with the Yankees as ‘Babe Ruth’s Boys Band.’ Giving concerts at the ball parks before the game, the boys would later circulate among the patrons, collecting change and bills in their sailor hats. Not only was a goodly sum of cash received, but the free publicity was invaluable. By this effort, the Babe gave much back to his alma mater, of which he was always proud.” Cairnes, Phillip F. (Brother Gilbert), Young Babe Ruth, His Early Life and Baseball Career, From the Memoirs Of A Xaverian Brother, McFarland 1999, p. 11.

St. Mary's Industrial School Private Mailing Card, Featuring Babe Ruth's Band

St. Mary’s Industrial School Private Mailing Card, Featuring Babe Ruth’s Band

Brother Paul, who was school superintendent at the time of the fire, accompanied the St. Mary’s Band on that trip. As part of St. Mary’s efforts to raise funds, the school produced a Private Mailing Card that pictures the St. Mary’s Band near the baseball field where Ruth once played. The bandstand, where Ruth posed for the 1914 team photo, is visible in the background of the card as well.

Reverse Of St. Mary's Industrial School Private Mailing Card, Featuring Babe Ruth's Band

Reverse Of St. Mary’s Industrial School Private Mailing Card, Featuring Babe Ruth’s Band

The reverse of the Private Mailing Card includes a printed acknowledgement from Brother Paul, thanking patrons for contributing funds for rebuilding the school. One example of that card, which is pictured above, has a personal note from Brother Paul dated March 3, 1921, thanking “Miss Cramer” for a one dollar donation. Brother Paul adds, “Shall have our little boys pray for your intention. May God bless you.” Brother Paul remained at St. Mary’s until 1925, and three years later was named Superior General of the Xaverian order.

Newspaper Enterprise Association Photo of St. Mary's Industrial School, Baltimore, Maryland, August 17, 1948

Newspaper Enterprise Association Photo of St. Mary’s Industrial School, Baltimore, Maryland, August 17, 1948

With the help of Ruth the school was rebuilt and continued to serve wayward boys of Baltimore another 30 years. On August 16, 1948, Ruth died in New York City and at St. Mary’s the following day, a special prayer service was held for Ruth at the school’s chapel. A NEA wire photo captures the moment. The photo’s description, set forth on the back of the photo, states: “BALTIMORE, MD. — Sorrowful boys at St. Mary’s Industrial School kneel at the altar in the school’s chapel for morning prayers after they were informed that Babe Ruth, a graduate of the institution and one of its greatest benefactors, had died. In center is Brother Herbert who taught at the school when Babe Ruth attended. At extreme right is Brother Charles, superintendent of the school.”

Newspaper Enterprise Association Photo Description of August 17, 1948 St. Mary's Industrial School Photo

Newspaper Enterprise Association Description of August 17, 1948 Photo, St. Mary’s Industrial School

St. Mary’s Industrial School closed in 1950, and the facility later was reopened as Cardinal Gibbons High School (as an aside, it was Cardinal Gibbons who performed Ruth’s Sacrament of Confirmation at St. Mary’s in 1907). Cardinal Gibbons High School closed in 2010. The property is now being redeveloped by St. Agnes Hospital. It is perhaps fitting that, once Babe Ruth died, the school that helped make him who he was, was shuttered as well. Newspaper accounts do not mention whether Babe Ruth’s Band played one last time in his honor the day he passed.

The Goddess “Gentlemen’s Club” – The Bar That Ruth Bought

Chances are most baseball fans who park north of Camden Yards in the garages on Eutaw Street do not know the historical significance of the building they pass just before crossing Lombard Street on the way towards Camden Yards. That building, which currently houses The Goddess, a self-proclaimed “Gentlemen’s Club,” was once owned by Babe Ruth, and the sidewalk outside the building is where Ruth’s father died after injuries he sustained while trying to break up a brawl.

The Goddess Gentleman's Club

The Goddess Gentlemen’s Club

“The past exists all around us, you just have to know where to look.” This has been my motto for years and is one of the themes running through my book Deadball, A Metaphysical Baseball Novel. Babe Ruth’s ties to Maryland are a good example of this theme, from the house where he was born, to the orphanage and baseball field where he grew up, to the Catholic church where he was married. Other places tied to the Babe, while equally notable, are a little more difficult to detect, such as the home field where he played for the International League Baltimore Orioles, which is now a McDonald’s restaurant.

Goddess Gentleman's Club With Camden Yards Scoreboard in Background

Goddess Gentlemen’s Club With Camden Yards Scoreboard in Background

The same is true for the three-story building located at  38 South Eutaw Street. In 1915, Ruth’s Boston Red Sox won the World Series and legend has it that Ruth took part of his World Series earnings and purchased the building as a bar for his father, which became known as “Ruth’s Cafe.” Babe Ruth and his wife Helen lived above the bar on the second floor of the building during that following winter.

The Goddess, Located Across the Street from the Bromo Seltzer Tower

The only known photograph of the Babe and his father was taken inside the building in December 1915. Babe is seen standing behind the bar in the center of the photograph while his father, dressed in the same bartenders attire, is standing to the right. It being the Christmas season, the bar is decorated with ornaments and tinsel.

Ruth and His Father (Photograph by Vincent Velzis)

Just two plus years after Ruth purchased the building, tragedy struck as Ruth’s father died in the street outside the building. The brawl he tried to break up is said to have involved one of his relatives.

The Mean Streets of Baltimore – Where Babe Ruth’s Father Died

Ruth’s Cafe on Eutaw Street should not be confused with another establishment of the same name which Ruth’s father ran on West Conway Street.   Prior to the construction of Camden Yards, Conway Street street ran northeast across what is now home plate, through the pitcher’s mound and second base, and across center field towards the green batters eye behind center field.

The memory of Ruth’s Cafe is honored at Oriole Park’s Budweiser Patio on Eutaw Street.

Budweiser Patio on Eutaw Street, with Plaque Honoring Babe Ruth

A plaque on the side of the Budweiser Patio honors Babe Ruth. It was erected by the “Old Timer’s Baseball Association of Maryland” although its age and appearance suggest it was relocated from another venue.

Babe Ruth Plaque at Camden Yards

The sign next to the Babe Ruth plaque relates a short history of the Ruth’s Cafe on Conway Street.

Camden Yard Sign Noting History of Conway Street Pub

A section of West Conway Street remains just southwest of Oriole Park and a sign for the street is located on Russell Street across from the main ballpark entrance at  Schaefer Circle.

Intersection of West Conway Street and Russell Street

When the State of Maryland excavated the area during construction of Camden Yards, bricks from the building at 406 West Conway Street were unearthed and one is now on display at the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum.

Center Field at Camden Yards, Former Location of Babe’s Cafe

Yes, the past is all around us. We just need to know where to look. Should you find yourself making your way down Eutaw Street on the way to Camden Yards, be sure to stop at the Goddess and take a moment to appreciate it’s historical significance. Of course, it being a strip club, I will leave it to you to decide whether the building is better appreciated from the outside, as opposed to from inside the establishment.

Ellicott City’s St. Paul’s Catholic Church – Where Babe Ruth Got Married

Babe Ruth spent the majority of his formative years as a ward of St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, an orphanage and reform school run by the Archdiocese of Baltimore. His parents signed him over to the Xaverian Brothers out of desperation when he was just eight or nine years old. In 1914, Ruth left St. Mary’s to begin his professional baseball career, playing first for the International League Baltimore Orioles, before being sold to the Boston Red Sox organization. He made his major league debut in July of that year and ended the season with the International League Providence Grays.

1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth Rookie Card

While in Boston, Ruth fell in love with Helen Woodford, a waitress he had met at a local diner. Once the baseball season was over, Ruth returned to Baltimore with Woodford. Ruth asked and received permission from his father to get married. On October 14, 1914, Ruth and Woodford were married at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Ellicott City, Maryland, located about 12 miles west of downtown Baltimore.

St. Paul’s Catholic Church, Located at 3755 St. Paul Street in Ellicott City, Maryland

Ellicott City was named after brothers Andrew and John Ellicott, who founded Ellicott Mills along the banks of the Patapsco River in the 1770’s.  In the 1800’s the town grew to be a prosperous mill town, one of the largest in the state.

View of St. Paul’s Catholic Church from St. Paul Street

In 1838, the Archdiocese of Baltimore constructed St. Paul’s Church on land purchased from the Ellicott family. At the time of its construction, St. Paul’s was the only Catholic Church located in Maryland between Baltimore and Frederick. St. Paul’s is perched on a hill overlooking Main Street. A tall, grey granite steeple at the front of the building offers entry to the church on three sides. Ornamental rose windows adorn the steeple above the three separate entrances, each with a set of green painted doors.

Interior of St. Paul’s Catholic Church, Where Babe Ruth Married his First Wife Helen

Although much of the church building on the outside appears as it did at the time Ruth was married there, an addition to the front of the church expanded the area housing the altar and the tabernacle.

St. Paul’s Catholic Church Nave.

During their wedding ceremony, Babe and Helen Ruth stood just in front of the first row of pews.

Detail of a Rose Window Over One of the Front Doors of St. Paul’s Church

The couple was married in a simple ceremony by Father Thomas Dolan. The only people in attendance other than the priest and the young couple were two members of the Church, one being Father Dolan’s sister.

Side Entrance to St. Paul’s Church from the East

After the wedding, the newlyweds lived for the winter in Baltimore, above a tavern operated by Babe Ruth’s father on Conway Street, which now is center field at Oriole Park (not to be confused with a second Ruth bar (now known as the Goddess Gentlemen’s Club)).

Staircase on Which the Fictional Byron Bennett Was Sitting When He Saw Babe and Helen Ruth Exit St. Paul’s Church

In my book Deadball, A Metaphysical Baseball Novel, the protagonist, Byron Bennett, recounts an episode that happened to him when, as a boy, he paid a visit to St. Paul’s Church:

“Byron and (his dog) Miss Tree climbed up the 20 worn, granite steps – Byron counted each one – which led from the sidewalk to the church’s east entrance, and took seats on the top step. While Byron was watching a train approach the B&O Railroad station that bordered the city’s east side, the church doors burst open behind him and a young couple appeared, arm in arm, smiling and laughing.”

Doors From Babe and Helen Ruth Would Have Exited St. Paul’s Church

“The sound of a pipe organ playing Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” emanated from inside the church. The commotion startled Miss Tree and she began barking. Byron scooted to the side of the step, pulling Miss Tree along with him, and put his hands around her mouth in a failed attempt to silence her.”

Entrance to St. Paul’s Catholic Church Looking West Toward B&O Railroad Station

“Byron looked up at the couple as they passed. The groom towered over him, dwarfing his small frame. With his thick lips, wide nose, and olive complexion, the man looked like a young Babe Ruth. . . . Byron waved to the couple as they descended the steps. The groom turned around and gave him a wink. Miss Tree continued barking. In the small parking lot at the base of the church steps there appeared a Packard S-38 touring car with thick white-wall tires and an open roof. Byron watched as the happy couple slid into the back seat and the car roared out of the parking lot, disappearing as if evaporating into the air before it reached Main Street.”

West Entrance to St. Paul’s Church

“After staring for a moment in disbelief, he stood up, still confused as to what he had seen, and looked down at Miss Tree, who appeared equally confused. ‘Did you see that?’ Byron asked his attentive companion. Byron walked over to the church entrance, pulling several times on its worn, cylinder-shaped brass door handles, but they were locked. He knocked, but no one answered. Abandoning the doors facing east, Byron ran down the 20 granite steps, past the entrance to the church basement, around to the other side of the steeple, and up another 21 granite steps – he counted each one – to the doors facing west. Miss Tree followed suit, barking all the way. Byron pulled on the handles, but those doors were locked as well.”

St. Paul’s Catholic Church and Rectory

If you are a fan of the game and you find yourself in or near Ellicott City, be sure to stop by St. Paul’s Church to see where Babe Ruth got married. Although there is no guarantee that you too will encounter the Babe during your visit, you will get a sense of the man, for his legend lives large in Ellicott City, just as it does in Baltimore, Boston, and New York. And, in case you were wondering about Byron’s dog, his name is a tribute to the day Miss Tree, a stray, first showed up at Byron’s house. Byron’s parents tried without success to locate the dog’s owner and, unable to solve the mystery, named her as such and let Byron keep her. Byron, then a small boy, pronounced her name with two, not three, syllables.

Touring the Lost Ballparks of Baltimore With Author Burt Solomon

Burt Solomon and Terry Hartzell Touring the Former Site of Union Park

As a die-hard Baltimore Orioles fan and amateur  historian, one of my all-time favorite books is Burt Solomon’s Where They Ain’t, The Fabled Life and Untimely Death of the Original Baltimore Orioles, the Team That Gave Birth to Modern Baseball, ranking right up there with James Bready’s Baseball in Baltimore, The First Hundred Years. Thanks to Terry Hartzell, a fan of both Burt’s book and my book Deadball, A Metaphysical Baseball Novel, I had the opportunity to take both Burt and Terry on one of my Lost Ballparks of Baltimore Tours. Our first stop was the former site of Union Park at the corner of East 25th Street and Guilford Avenue, followed by a walking tour up Barclay Street to East 29th Street and the former site of American League Park, which is now a McDonald’s.

Burt Solomon and David Stinson Standing in Front of Memorial Stadium's Former Infield, Now a Youth Baseball Park Courtesy of the Ripken Foundation.

Next we walked across East 29th Street to the former site of Terrapin Park/old Oriole Park, where we confirmed that the 16 original row houses that sat behind what was once right-center field all remain at the site. After walking back to the car, we drove less than a mile from Union Park to the former site of Memorial Stadium, where pieces of brick and concrete from the stadium still can be found amongst the dirt, exposed by the weather.

After bidding adieu to Burt, Terry and I continued on to New Cathedral Cemetery, where four Hall of Fame Orioles are interred (John McGraw, Joe Kelley, Ned Hanlon, and Wilbert Robinson). Our final stop for the day was the former site of St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, where a young Babe Ruth was raised as a ward of the Archdiocese of Baltimore.  The historic baseball site includes the field where Babe Ruth learned to play the game, a building from St. Mary’s dating back to Ruth’s time at the school (the former Industrial Arts Building), and the former St. Mary’s Chapel, which was converted into a school building prior to Cardinal Gibbons High School arriving there in 1962.

I hope to conduct another Lost Ballparks of Baltimore Tour some time this spring. If you are interested in coming along, just send me a comment to this post.

 

Babe Ruth Field At The Old St. Mary’s Industrial School

One would think that, given how important Babe Ruth is to the sport of baseball, more would made of the fact that the baseball field where Ruth honed his skills as a child still remains to this day a baseball field in an area just west of downtown Baltimore.

The Infield at Babe Ruth Field, Baltimore, Maryland

Near the corner of South Canton Avenue and Route 1 just a half mile north of Interstate 95 is a ball field known as “Babe Ruth Field.”

Babe Ruth Field Scoreboard, Baltimore, Maryland

In 2007, as part of my research for Deadball, I visited the site, which at the time was still Cardinal Gibbons High School.  Formerly, the school had been the St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, an orphanage and reform school run by the Catholic Church.

Dugout at Babe Ruth Field, Baltimore, Maryland

In addition to the cinder block dugouts and the chainlink backstop, one major difference between the field that Ruth played on and the field as it exists today is the orientation of home plate, which in Ruth’s day, was located in what is now centerfield.

Center Field at Babe Ruth Field, Baltimore, Formerly Location of Home Plate

Babe Ruth spent the majority of his formative years as a ward of the school, his parents having signed him over to the Xaverian Brothers out of desperation when he was just eight or nine years old.

Babe Ruth At St. Mary's Industrial School For Boys (Huggins & Scott Auctions image)

Brother Matthias Bouttlier, the school’s disciplinarian,  helped harness Ruth’s natural abilities.

Home Plate at Babe Ruth Field, Baltimore, Maryland

In Deadball, the protagonist, Byron Bennett, then a member of the Cardinal Gibbons varsity baseball team, thinks he sees a game being played on the old St. Mary’s configuration of the field wherein George Herman Ruth hits a home run into the crowd of students sitting beyond right field.

Left Field at Babe Ruth Field, Formerly Right Field

With Cardinal Gibbons High School now closed and the facility no longer in use, the future of Babe Ruth Field is uncertain.  Hopefully the Archdiocese of Baltimore, which owns the field, will continue to preserve the historic ballpark so future generations can stand where the Babe once stood and play ball.