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9+ Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Babe Ruth

People | May 30, 2019

American baseball player George Herman Ruth (1895 - 1948) known as Babe Ruth. Source: (MPI/Getty Images)

He is George Herman Ruth, Jr., but you probably know him better as “The Bambino” or “The Sultan of Swat” or simply as “The Babe," Babe Ruth. He is one of the greatest sports figures in American culture and, even though decades have passed since Babe Ruth played baseball, he is still considered one of the best ball players of all time. Babe Ruth was just as colorful and charismatic off the field as he was on the field. Stories about him have become legendary. Let’s look at some facts, some trivia, and some stories that you (maybe) didn't know about Babe Ruth.

Source: (lobshotscom)

Babe Ruth didn’t know how old he was for a while there

For most of his life, Babe Ruth believed that his birthday was February 7, 1894. But after the 1934 baseball season, he was asked to join a group of baseball players for a series of exhibition games in Japan and he needed to get a passport. Ruth dug out his birth certificate and was shocked to see that his actual date of birth was February 6, 1895. He was nearly a year younger than he thought he was.

Babe Ruth chatting with a group of children. Source: (si.com)

Babe Ruth was a juvenile delinquent

Because Babe Ruth attended St. Mary’s Industrial School for Orphans, Delinquent, Incorrigible, and Wayward Boys in Baltimore, many people assumed he was orphaned. This is not true. He wasn’t an orphan, but he was delinquent, incorrigible, and wayward. He later admitted that, as a child, he simply didn’t understand right from wrong and he was often in trouble. His parents couldn’t control him, so, at age seven, his parents signed over guardianship of him to the boys’ school. It was at this school that Babe Ruth discovered his passion for baseball. 

George Ruth, Sr. (far right) bartending at one of his bars. Source: (pinterest.com)

Babe Ruth’s father died in a bar brawl… with relatives

George Herman Ruth, Sr. owned several bars in Baltimore. He tended bar at most of them and hired family members to help him out. In August of 1918, two of his brothers-in-law began to fight in one of Ruth’s taverns. Ruth tried to break them apart, but he ended up fighting with one of the men. They took their fight outside to the street. When his brother-in-law threw a punch at him, Ruth Sr. fell backward and struck his head on the cobblestone street. He died of a fractured skull. 

Babe Ruth was a terrible, reckless driver. Source: (pinterest.com)

He Once went Straight from Jail to Play in a Baseball Game

Babe Ruth was a notoriously reckless driver with a need for speed. His record of traffic violations and accidents was lengthy. On June 8, 1921, Ruth was arrested for speeding in Manhattan. It was his second arrest in the same month. In an attempt to force Ruth to think about his driving habits, he was sentenced to spend the rest of that day in jail. The problem was, The Yankees had a game that evening. Someone brought his Yankee uniform to the jail and Ruth put in on under his street clothes. Ruth was finally released from jail nearly an hour after the game had started. He sped off — this time with a police escort — to the stadium in time to play the last half of the game. 

Babe Ruth with daughters Julia (right) and Dorothy (left). Source: (ftw.usatoday.com)

Babe Ruth’s strange first marriage

As a rookie baseball player, Babe Ruth married his first wife, Helen Woodford, a sixteen-year-old waitress. Soon after, the couple adopted an infant daughter, Dorothy. Most historians now believe that this baby was Ruth’s and was born to one of his many mistresses. Long after the couple divorced, a house fire occurred in Watertown, Massachusetts, killing a woman who lived there. At first, she was identified as Helen Kinder, the wife of a prominent dentist. But just before her funeral, it was discovered that she was really Babe Ruth’s first wife and that she had been living with the dentist and claiming to be his wife. The child, Dorothy, went on to live with Ruth. 

Babe Ruth and his longtime friend and teammate, Lou Gehrig, fueded for years but eventually made up. Source: (sbnation.com)

Babe Ruth had a Feud with Lou Gehrig because he was talking about his mama

In April of 1929, Babe Ruth married for a second time. His new wife, actress Claire Merritt Hodgson, had a daughter of her own, Julia, and she raised Julia and Dorothy together. Several years later, someone overheard Lou Gehrig’s mother comment, “It’s a shame that Claire doesn’t dress Dorothy as nicely as she dresses her own daughter.” The comment got back to Ruth who confronted his friend and teammate, Gehrig, about it. After a lot of talk about Gehrig’s mother, the two men refused to speak to each other. They didn’t reconcile until after Gehrig retired from baseball in 1939. 

Source: (hollywoodreporter.com)

Ruth could never remember people’s names

Babe Ruth had trouble remembering names and, after a while, just gave up trying. Instead, he got in the habit of calling people “Doc” and “Kid” and “Chief” and “Doll”. People thought it was endearing but really, it just masked his terrible memory. 

Babe Ruth, drinking and fishing. Source: (lordsofthedrinks.com)

He was addicted to booze and women

Even though it caused trouble with his marriages and his baseball performances, Babe Ruth couldn’t help himself — he was addicted to alcohol and women. His all-night drinking binges and wild partying lifestyle impacted his game, so he was repeatedly asked to scale back on his fun. He once told Yankees co-owner, Cap Huston, “I'll promise to go easier on drinking and to get to bed earlier, but not for you, fifty thousand dollars, or two-hundred and fifty thousand dollars will I give up women. They’re too much fun.” 

Robert Thom's painting depicting Babe Ruth's “Called Shot,” when he pointed to a spot in the stands and then hit the ball to that exact spot. Source: (Courtesy the National Baseball Hall of Fame/theparisreview.org)

Babe Ruth was not unanimously voted into The Hall of Fame

With Babe Ruth’s long and impressive baseball career, you would think that he would have been a unanimous choice for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame when it was established in Cooperstown, New York. However, eleven of the 226 voters neglected to write Ruth’s name on their ballot. At the time, Ruth was second only to Ty Cobb in the number of votes but has since moved down the list. Only Mariano Rivera has been able to get 100% of the Hall of Fame votes. 

Tags: babe ruth | baseball | football history | sports

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Karen Harris

Writer

Karen left the world of academic, quitting her job as a college professor to write full-time. She spends her days with her firefighter husband and four daughters on a hobby farm with an assortment of animals, including a goat named Atticus, a turkey named Gravy, and a chicken named Chickaletta.