As are the circumstances with many legendary people and institutions, accounts of Babe Ruth’s tenure at Baltimore’s St. Mary’s Industrial School are part truthful and part apocryphal. Issued for an annual music performance in 1914, this souvenir program documents two of the ironclad truths regarding Ruth’s stay: his status as a baseball player and his nickname of “Babe.” The 28-page guide features a black-and-white team photo of “OUR LEAGUE CHAMPIONS,” listing Ruth as “Babe.” With covers/pages intact, the guide is complete. Cover wear and a partially detached center page are cited for the sake of accuracy, as they do not detract from the overall significance of this treasure that trumps most heirlooms in any “Sultan of Swat” collection. More on our website.
Regarding Ruth’s childhood at St. Mary’s, it has been proclaimed by several of his contemporaries (most definitively by his younger sister, Mamie) that Ruth was chewing tobacco, drinking whiskey and stealing (or at least dabbling in all three) at the age of 6. The consensus is that he absolutely refused to attend school. These “violations” logically led to his being committed to St. Mary’s on June 13, 1902. While it has been reported that Ruth was released from that institution at least three times (including after his mother’s death in 1910), a document from the Associated Catholic Charities of Baltimore states that Ruth “was resident there” from June 13, 1902 until February 27, 1914. The latter date, of course, precedes the offered program by two months (and is likely closer to the actual layout of the guide, which, of course, had to go to production and printing before the event date).
Ruth’s days at St. Mary’s, like his days in Major League Baseball, were nothing short of spectacular. He was, according to all who encountered him, popular, unpredictable, stubborn, reckless and, above all else, generous. One account has it that in 1930, Ruth spotted former St. Mary’s classmate Lawton Stenersen at a prize fight at Madison Square Garden. When Ruth asked Stenersen if he had seen any of the old gang from Baltimore, Stenersen mentioned a couple names and told Ruth that “Dope Flaherty” had started his own moving business and even had a van with his name on it. Ruth simply winked and moved on into the arena. Months later, Stenersen learned that it was Ruth who gave Flaherty the money to start that moving business. Ruth was also reportedly proficient at several activities he learned in vocational training; including carpentry, cigar rolling and tailoring (specifically, turning shirt collars). In terms of the offered program, the baseball photo with Ruth is, of course, the main attraction. Additionally, however, are full page photos of (among other amenities) the tailor shop (an image of the "Cutting Department"), the dining room, the chapel and the carpenter shop.
As we all know and as is confirmed in this program, baseball was Ruth’s true calling. The photo portrays Ruth in the back row with catcher’s gear at the ready. Despite being left-handed, Ruth reportedly played every different position (and did so quite well). Along the white border, he is identified as “Babe” Ruth. Ruth was released from St. Mary’s on February 27. He had reportedly signed a contract with Jack Dunn and the International League’s Baltimore Orioles less than two weeks prior (February 14). As Ruth was “released” and this program was issued, a toppling series of events shaped the baseball world. Ruth played in his first professional game on March 7 (an intersquad game in which he pitched and hit a home run). Tales regarding his “Babe” moniker invariably cite teammates referring to Ruth as “Dunn’s Baby” or “Dunn’s Babe.” Thus, this program makes the accurate (and timely) reference. What followed, of course, was the upstart Federal League’s debut and resultant attendance woes at Oriole Park. With virtually no other options, Dunn was forced to sell his prize to the Boston Red Sox. Ruth debuted for that club on July 11 and picked up a win on the mound. The rest is Major League and American cultural history. This St. Mary’s program coveys that school’s pride over its product who, while already legendary within the gates of the boarding school, was to become arguably the most beloved athlete in the history of American sport.