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The Smoke Stack

Passengers From The Past – Babe Ruth

Posted on May 18, 2017

Essex Steam Train & Riverboat has enjoyed hosting living history with reenactors portraying Mark Twain, Abraham Lincoln, William and Mrs. Gillette and baseball-legend, Babe Ruth. Next month, visitors can experience the delight of meeting some of these characters every weekend!

Because baseball season recently opened its 2017 season, we thought it might be fun to put Babe Ruth in the spotlight in this month’s Smoke Stack. Born George Herman Ruth in 1895, his career in Major League Baseball ended up spanning 22 seasons through 1935. Ruth’s greatest fame came with his role with the New York Yankees as a slugging outfielder, establishing many batting and some pitching records. He is regarded as one of the greatest sports heroes in American culture and considered by many to be the greatest baseball player of all time.

Ruth addresses crowd at Yankee Stadium in 1948, shortly before his death.

(Credit: Ralph Morse/Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images)

Following are some strange, little-known things about Babe Ruth, from an article by Christopher Klein in 2014:

Ruth did not retire as a New York Yankee.
His major-league career not only started in Boston but it ended there with the Boston Braves. Ruth signed with the Braves in 1935 in the hopes of becoming the team’s manager the following season. When it became clear that his skills had deteriorated and the promise would not be kept, Ruth ended his career after just 28 games in a Braves uniform.

He made his last official major-league appearance in a Dodgers uniform.
After his playing days were over, Ruth maintained his dream of managing in the big leagues. In June 1938, he was hired as a first base coach for the Brooklyn Dodgers. Ruth entertained fans by taking batting practice and appearing in exhibition games, but the struggling Dodgers used the “Sultan of Swat” mainly to sell tickets. When the manager’s job opened for the 1939 season, the Dodgers selected captain Leo Durocher over Ruth, who did not return to the team.

Ruth was not a unanimous choice for the Baseball Hall of Fame.
A year after his retirement, Ruth was among five initial inductees elected to the new National Baseball Hall of Fame under construction in Cooperstown, New York. Despite his amazing career statistics, 11 of the 226 voters left him off their ballots leaving Ruth to trail Ty Cobb as the leading vote-getter. Ruth’s plaque in Cooperstown refers to him as baseball’s “greatest drawing card.”

Ruth believed he was a year older than he really was for most of his life.
For decades, Ruth believed that his birthday was February 7, 1894. However, when he applied for a passport before sailing to Japan with an all-star team of ballplayers after the 1934 season, he looked up his birth certificate and found his birthday listed as February 6, 1895, nearly a full year later than he had believed! Ruth, however, continued to celebrate February 7 as his birthday and did not shave a year off his age.

He served jail time for being a reckless driver.
Ruth possessed underrated quickness on the base paths—he stole home 10 times in his career although he made the last out of the 1926 World Series attempting to swipe second base—but it couldn’t compare to the speed he displayed behind the wheel. Ruth’s litany of speeding tickets, traffic violations and automobile accidents was nearly as prolific as his 714 home runs. On June 8, 1921, Ruth was arrested in Manhattan for speeding—albeit at 26 miles per hour—for the second time in a month and sentenced to spend the rest of the day in jail. Released 45 minutes after the start of that day’s game, Ruth put on his Yankee uniform underneath his suit and sped off with a motorcycle escort in time to play for the Yankees.

Ruth’s first wife died under mysterious circumstances.
Ruth married 16-year-old Helen Woodford after his rookie season. The couple adopted a daughter, likely born to one of Ruth’s mistresses, in 1922. Within a few years, the pair separated permanently. In January 1929, faulty wiring sparked a fire that swept through a Watertown, Massachusetts, house owned by a dentist named Edward Kinder and killed a woman mistakenly identified as his wife, Helen Kindler. Helen, however, was actually Ruth’s estranged wife, and her true identity didn’t come to light until readers and family members recognized her photograph in a Boston newspaper. The true identification of Helen Ruth came only hours before her scheduled interment.

We hope you enjoyed learning some things about one of the greatest baseball players of all time! Join us on Father’s Day weekend to “meet” The Babe. For more information on our Passengers From The Past, click here.

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