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Babe Ruth

Babe Ruth Signs with the Pros

At the time of St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys' baseball team's victory over St. Joseph's -- with George Ruth Jr. as pitcher -- Baltimore had a very successful minor league baseball team, the Orioles, owned by a former big league player named Jack Dunn.

He became the Orioles manager in 1907, and by 1910 he owned the team. (Ironically, Baltimore had no major league team because the Orioles had moved to New York in 1903 to become the Highlanders, later the Yankees, as part of the settlement between the old National and new American Leagues.)

About Jack Dunn

Dunn had a keen eye for baseball talent and was a shrewd businessman. While his team was a success on the field and at the box office, his greatest source of income came from selling his players to the majors. Certainly Dunn, the savvy operator that he was, had heard of "the speed boy" playing at St. Mary's.

His ears were open to men like Mount St. Joseph's Brother Gilbert; to Joe Engel, a former major league pitcher and alumnus of Brother Gilbert's school; and, according to Babe Ruth biographer Marshall Smelser, to "assorted Baltimore bartenders George Herman Ruth Sr."

Although he missed the Morrisette/Ruth matchup, Brother Gilbert had seen two typical Ruthian performances in September 1913. In one, when Ruth came to bat the first time, the opposing rightfielder moved all the way from his normal position in the Big Yard to near second base in the Little Yard, 280 feet away from Ruth's bat. (The boys in the Little Yard stopped play; they knew who was up.) George didn't disappoint, slugging the ball off the Little Yard's farthest fence, quite a poke with the "dead ball" of the day. In another game attended by Brother Gilbert, Ruth belted a pair of homers.

There was no mistaking the fact that the young man named Ruth was something special on a baseball diamond. He already possessed an athlete's calm and keen grace. He was relaxed and poised, both at the bat and on the mound.

Perhaps more importantly, the Brothers who taught him thought highly of his character. The wild, tobacco-chewing urchin of the docks who had been brought there 12 years earlier was now a responsible young man. Yet while Ruth had grown physically and mentally, his fun-loving nature was still intact.

Jack Dunn Visits St. Mary's

Dunn, who had recently signed Morrisette, was invited to St. Mary's to give the youth a tryout. Arriving with Brother Gilbert and Yankee infielder Fritz Maisel on February 14, 1914, Dunn was introduced to Ruth's mentor, Brother Matthias.

Dunn explained why he was there. The Brother offered one terse comment, "Ruth can hit."

Then Dunn asked, "Can he pitch?"

"Sure, he can do anything," the king-size Brother replied.

No assessment ever contained truer words. After half an hour of throwing the ball around, Dunn decided to sign Ruth on the spot. Because Ruth was still the legal ward of the school's head, Brother Paul, Dunn had to assume guardianship in order to sign him, but this was a common practice used by the Brothers to "graduate" their boys to full-time employment.

George Herman Ruth Jr. (he had taken Herman as his Confirmation name, in honor of one of the Brothers at St. Mary's and because it was his father's middle name) was signed to play for Dunn's Baltimore Orioles for the sum of $100 per month -- $600 for the full season.

For the young man, whose previous experience with money was change he pilfered from the family till or "candy credits" he earned by sewing shirts, this must have seemed a king's ransom! By the time Dunn and Ruth left Brother Paul's office after the signing, word had already spread. A cluster of St. Mary's "inmates" were waiting outside. Someone was heard to say, "There goes our ball club."

Two weeks later, Ruth visited with his father in the family home above the saloon on his final weekend in Baltimore. He had been instructed to report to the Keenan Hotel on Monday afternoon, March 2. From there he was to join up with a group of pitchers and catchers and head south to the Oriole spring training camp in Fayetteville, North Carolina. How excited and nervous he must have been.

Find out how George Herman Ruth Jr. began his professional baseball career on the next page.

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