The Field Where Babe Ruth Played – St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys

The Field Where Babe Ruth Played – St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys

The baseball field where Babe Ruth honed his skills as a child still remains to this day in an area just west of downtown Baltimore at 3225 Wilkens Avenue.

Babe Ruth and His Baseball Team, St. Mary’s Industrial School For Boys (Huggins & Scott Auctions image)

With the demise of the House That Ruth Built and the demolition of so many of the major league parks where he once played, there appears to be good news out of Baltimore that the field where Ruth learned to play the game might be spared its uncertain fate and, instead, restored for future generations to appreciate.

The Infield at Babe Ruth Field, Baltimore, Maryland

Near the corner of South Canton Avenue and Route 1 just a half mile north of Interstate 95 is a ball field known as “Babe Ruth Field.”

Babe Ruth Field Scoreboard, Baltimore, Maryland

At the time these pictures were taken in 2007, the field was part of Cardinal Gibbons High School. Formerly, the school had been the St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, an orphanage and reform school run by the Catholic Church.

Dugout at Babe Ruth Field, Baltimore, Maryland

In addition to the cinder block dugouts and the chainlink backstop, one major difference between the field that Ruth played on and the field as it exists today is the orientation of home plate, which in Ruth’s day, was located in what is now centerfield.

Center Field at Babe Ruth Field, Baltimore, Formerly Location of Home Plate, With Industrial Arts Building in Background

Babe Ruth spent the majority of his formative years as a ward of the school, his parents having signed him over to the Xaverian Brothers out of desperation when he was just eight or nine years old. Brother Matthias Bouttlier, the school’s disciplinarian, helped harness Ruth’s natural abilities.

Home Plate at Babe Ruth Field, Baltimore, Maryland

Left field was formerly right field in the days of Ruth.

Left Field at Babe Ruth Field, Formerly Right Field

With Cardinal Gibbons High School now closed and the facility no longer in use, the future of Babe Ruth Field was uncertain, but perhaps no more. Plans were announced earlier this year for St. Agnes Hospital, which is located nearby, to purchase the former high school grounds and buildings (including the industrial arts building where Ruth went to school and the St. Mary’s Gymnasium), as well as Babe Ruth Field.

Plans to Save Babe Ruth Field Would Result in Reorienting Field to the Way it Was When Babe Played There

In 2012 St. Agnes Hospital purchased the former Cardinal Gibbons grounds. Bon Secours Baltimore Health System, which owns St. Agnes Hospital, is about to break ground on an apartment complex that hopefully will preserve the field and buildings that date back to Ruth’s time at St. Mary’s.

Panoramic View of Babe Ruth Field at Former Site of St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys

In 2017, St. Agnes Hospital, with the assistance of the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, built a new turf baseball and football field at the site. The baseball field returns the configuration of the baseball diamond to its original location, during the time Babe Ruth played there.

Panoramic View of Babe Ruth Field, January 2018

Although the natural grass field is now covered with turf, the good news is the area remains a playing field where youth today can play where the Babe once learned his stills.

Babe Ruth Field, January 2018, Located Next to Industrial Arts Building

In 1919, a fire on the St. Mary’s campus destroyed most of the original buildings that dated to Babe Ruth’s time there. One building that remains from the time of Babe Ruth is the Industrial Arts Building where Babe Ruth would have learned to sew shirts.

Industrial Arts Building – Where Babe Ruth Learned Trades Other Than Baseball

A second building that dominates the campus at the southeast intersection of South Canton Avenue and Wilkins Avenue once housed both St. Mary’s Industrial School and Cardinal Gibbons High School.

Stone Building That Once Housed Cardinal Gibbons High School

The building was constructed in 1921 after the 1919 fire, and renovated prior to the arrival of Cardinal Gibbons High School in 1962.

The Former St. Mary’s Industrial School in Baltimore

A third structure, a former boiler house and garage with a distinctive brick smoke stack, exists from the time of Babe Ruth. It is located next to the stone building, out beyond what would have been right field at the time Babe Ruth played there.

Former Site of St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, Baltimore, Maryland

The Chapel, which survived the 1919 fire and sat at the corner of Wilkens Avenue and South Canton Avenue, was demolished in 1961 to make way for additional school buildings at Cardinal Gibbons High School.

Demolition of St. Mary’s Industrial School Chapel in 1961 (Baltimore Sun Photo, Ralph Robinson photographer)

Anyone who enjoys the history of baseball should make it a point to see where Babe Ruth lived and played in the years prior to turning professional in 1914. There is much to see at the former site of St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys. With the plans for the campus still not certain, now is the time to make a visit, or pilgrimage, to see this historic landmark. For more local history about Babe Ruth, be sure to check out Babe Ruth’s Band at St. Mary’s Industrial SchoolSt. Paul’s Catholic Church in Ellicott City, Maryland, Where Babe Ruth Got Married and The Goddess “Gentlemen’s Club” – The Bar That Ruth Bought.

Byron Bennett