How did he get that name?: A profile of George Herman Ruth

Every year as the time for the World Series in baseball rolls around, people begin reminiscing about the great ones.  Almost all conversations lead to the same name, Babe Ruth.  But few ever explain the answer to this question, “How did he get that name?”

George Herman Ruth, Jr. was born in a rough neighborhood in Baltimore, Maryland called Pigtown.  His German-American parents, Kate Schamberger-Ruth and George Herman Ruth, Sr. spent their lives in and out of the saloon business and occasionally sold lightning rods for a living.  The couple had eight children.  However, only two lived past infancy.  Geroge, Jr. and a daughter Mamie.  Kate Ruth was often ill.  It was the depression, and life for the family was as George, Jr. described it, often rough.

When George, Jr. was only seven years old, his father took him to St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys.  The school was a reformatory and an orphanage run by the Catholic faith.  The boy’s father signed over legal custody of his young son to the Catholic missionaries who ran St. Mary’s.  He stayed at the school in their care for the next twelve years.  During that time, the boy rarely visited his family and only on special occasions. His mother died when he was but a teenager.  At the school, he learned the art of shirtmaking and was active in both the school band and drama productions.

While the young boy was at the school, Brother Matthias Boutlier was the Head of Discipline.  It was Brother Boutlier who first introduced young George to a game called baseball.  Brother Boutlier took a special interest in Ruth.  He taught him how to read and how to write.  He worked with him on his baseball skills:  hitting, fielding, and pitching.

Another life-changing acquaintance was made in 1913 as St. Mary’s baseball team took on Mount St. Mary’s College in Emmitsburg, Maryland.  A former Mount St. Mary’s student, Joe Engel, a pitcher for the Washington Senators, attended the game that day.  He was impressed with George Herman Ruth, Jr.’s pitching.  Engel worked with Brother Gilbert, a teacher at St. Mary’s, to get Jack Dunn, the owner and manager of the Baltimore Orioles to notice Ruth.  The Orioles were a minor-league team at the time.  It  took Dunn only a half hour of watching Ruth’s pitching workout to decided that this young pitcher had something special.

Signing Ruth wasn’t that easy.  He was only 19 years old, and at that time, this meant he was a minor.  In fact, according to the law of the day, Ruth would be considered a minor until he was 25 years old!  But Dunn would not be deterred.  He literally had to become George Herman Ruth, Jr.’s legal guardian.

When Ruth joined the club by a contract that awarded him the grand salary of $250.00 a year, the other Oriole players poked fun at his age and called him “Jack’s newest babe”.  The nickname, while not necessarily unique, stuck with him beyond his lifetime.  It might surprise people to learn that most of the time his teammates did not call him Babe.  In fact, they deliberately avoided calling him “Babe”.  They most often called him George.  Sometimes, they referred to him as Jidge, a common nickname for anyone named George.  Eventually some called him “The Big Fellow” due to his size, and others just called him “Bam”.

But today as the World Series is being played, everyone talks about “Babe”

Photo 1: October 24, 2011 Fossil HD Cover-Copyright of Raptorproductions

All other photos are in the public domain.

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