Babe Ruth – Teen to Adult
When George left St. Mary’s Industrial School, he started out under the wing of his manager and new guardian, Jack Dunn; however, he didn’t fear the real world for long. He was like a kid exposed to a giant playground, ready for him to enjoy and experience. Growing up in monastery and trade school, George and the other kids at St. Mary’s suffered a large amount of neglect. Although Brother Mathias gave as much to Babe as he could, it could not replace that which would have come with a traditional life. At its essence, there was a lack of love, attention and freedom, and not to mention food, during those many years that Babe was at St. Mary’s.
All of these factors surely contributed to Babe’s large appetite for living once he got out of St. Mary’s. Within 5 months of Babe’s first season with the Orioles, at age 19, he was signed to the Major League Boston Red Sox. And, just a couple years later at 22, Babe was considered one of the best pitchers in the league and was definitely one of its most popular players. If one thinks about it, Babe had grown up in St. Mary’s with no possessions, living under extremely strict rules and never having received any affection from loved ones for almost his entire life.
His initial contract with the Orioles in 1914 was reported to be for six months at $100 per month; yet, by May of that year, Dunn doubled his salary. And, Dunn increased it in the following month as well. And, in the following month – July 1914 – Babe was sold to the Boston Red Sox and his salary went up again – to $3,500 a season or about six times what he was making when he initially left St. Mary’s for the Orioles.
There is no question of the potential effects that this incredibly dramatic transformation and transition could have a young man. There is no question that young Babe Ruth essentially went from one extreme to another. He was making more money than he could ever imagine. And, he was quickly becoming everyone’s hero.
Babe lived every minute of it, as if every minute would be his last, and he loved every minute of it. In the process, he gained a not-undeserved reputation for being a partier, jokester and clown. Babe was like a kid in a candy store. Plus, he didn’t have the manners and refinement of someone from a different background, sometimes coming across as a bit crude. Yet, most people were drawn to this lively, super-talented young ballplayer.
Today, Babe’s “festive” aspects of his personality are as well known as his baseball achievements. What’s interesting to note is that his fun-loving nature and its related habits seem to have become much more magnified and the focus of his story today, than they had been during his playing days or lifetime. Although Babe did his share of living of his “new life on the outside of St. Mary’s”, he wasn’t quite the hard-drinker and carouser that some of the media has portrayed.
Julia Ruth Stevens shares her thoughts: “He had a very deprived childhood being put into St. Mary’s and he really just wanted to try everything there was. He wanted to get enough to eat so he felt full… and he wanted to have enough to drink so that he felt good. It was just one of those things that I would never begrudge him for. When you consider that he died at the age of 53, he didn’t have that many years from 19 to 53. But he was never a drunkard — no way. He never drank any more than anyone else in the days of prohibition. It was just the thing that everyone was doing.”
During the Summer of 2006, BRC interviewed a number of people who knew the Babe directly, such as Bill Werber his former teammate, or second- or third hand. It was said over and over again that he wasn’t the drinker that he is portrayed as today. And, the same was that he may not have been the ladies’ man that he has been labeled, either. There is no doubt that he enjoyed his beverages; he enjoyed the attention of many women (remember that he was a true, yet accessible, superstar, at a time when there weren’t many similar celebrities); he loved to have a good time; and, he loved the attention of the public and essentially returned that attention in like kind.
As time has passed, and as the press and public fascination with the “bad boys” and the negative aspects of celebrity personalities has increased, the negatives of Babe’s life outside the ballpark have taken on a new dimension, a bigger focus, a legend in and of its own. While the truth probably lies somewhere between the different extremes, the public sometimes forgets that Babe was human, too. And, he had the same interests and spirit that many regular people had then and have today.