Babe’s Life as a Kid
George Herman “Babe” Ruth, Jr. was born in Baltimore, MD on February 6, 1895, just before the beginning of the Twentieth Century. The world was a lot different then than it is today. And, Ridgeley’s Delight, the neighborhood in Baltimore that Babe grew up in until 1902, was a lot different than it is today.
Try to imagine what it was like then. Movies had just been invented, so there were no movie theatres yet. There was no radio either, as that didn’t really start until around 1920. And, of course, there was no television, no video games and definitely no computers! It was a very different type of life for a kid growing up back then.
Kids spent a lot more time outside, playing games with each other and exploring the nearby world around their neighborhood. There weren’t soccer leagues and there weren’t planned activities. So, kids were often left on their own for parts of the day.
And, this was definitely true for George, Jr. His Dad, George, Sr., was a hard-working man who ran a saloon. His Mom helped out there as well. And, the Ridgeley’s Delight neighborhood sat between the docks of Baltimore’s harbor and the big train yards of the Baltimore & Ohio railroad. It was an area that had a lot of things going on. In one part of it, there was a street, Washington Boulevard, which was nicknamed “Professional’s Row” for all the doctors, dentists and lawyers who lived there.
In other parts of Ridgeley’s Delight, a lot of the dock workers and rail yard workers had apartments or other places to live. These laborers often moved around a lot. Some of them worked on the ships and trains themselves. And, many of them did not make a lot of money. So, parts of the neighborhood were a little rougher than others. And, George, Jr., being both curious and brave, liked to explore these areas.
Unfortunately, George Jr.’s roaming around the bad parts of town was not good. He was always getting himself into trouble. His Mom & Dad were just too busy running the saloon and trying to make a living to really pay attention to him. So, he would get himself into some small fights. And, he could be found throwing tomatoes at buildings and carriages. He pretty much would just hang out with his friends and run wild through the neighborhood.
After awhile, his parents began to realize that George Jr. was becoming too much for his mom and dad to handle, so they decided to send him to a place called St. Mary’s Industrial School when he was seven-years-old. St. Mary’s was an orphanage and reform school for troubled boys. It was run by a group of men, called monks, who were both very religious and very strict. St. Mary’s, and the monks who ran it, helped the community by accepting troubled kids and kids without families. St. Mary’s School became Babe’s legal custodian.
Growing up at St. Mary’s was tough for kids, especially for boys like George, Jr. who had a lot of energy. The Catholic monks of St. Mary’s ran the school with a lot of discipline and rules. Plus, the kids were never given much to eat and many times Babe left the dinner table hungry.
St. Mary’s School focused on giving kids a trade skill, so that they could get a job when they were old enough to leave St. Mary’s. The kids worked hard as apprentices to local Baltimore shopkeepers. There were all kinds of skills taught. George, Jr. was an apprentice to a tailor and learned to sew shirts. For the rest of his life, even when he was the best baseball player of his time, Babe would still sew and mend his own shirts!
At the same time, St. Mary’s gave George, Jr. two very important things in his life. The first thing was one of the monks, whose name was Brother Mathias. George Jr. looked up to Brother Mathias like a father and learned a lot of good things from him. The second thing was the game of baseball. Whenever the kids of St. Mary’s had free time, they were always playing baseball. And, there were a bunch of baseball teams there. The teams would play each other, as well as a few other schools.
Babe had always loved the game of baseball as a kid. He was a natural. The monks, particularly Brother Mathias and Brother Gilbert, saw how good he was and how much he liked the game. Not only did they encourage him to play, they also helped him improve his skills. While at St. Mary’s, George Jr. played just about every position, although he played catcher and pitcher most of the time. He got so good that word got around. One day when George Jr. was 19, a man named Jack Dunn came to see George Jr. And, the rest, as they say, is history! Mr. Dunn took George Jr. out of St. Mary’s School to play on his minor league baseball team. It was the start of Babe’s professional baseball career.