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

August 2nd, 2012
by Byron Bennett

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

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

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)

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.

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Posted in Babe Ruth Field, Maryland ballparks | Comments (15)

  • […] David Stinson on April 19, 2013 Babe Ruth spent the majority of his formative years as a ward of St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, an orphanage and reform school run by the Archdiocese of Baltimore. His parents signed him over […]

  • Avatar Don Hoover says:

    This is a great article, and I believe Babe signed his first contract with the Orioles for $ 600.00 out of St Mary’s. I appreciate all of the research you put into this, as well as all of your other articles in past history. Keep them coming.

  • Avatar david ullrich says:

    Very interesting, indeed. I ran across this website as I was trying to find the location of St Mary’s Industrial School. I am researching my great grandfather, Robert Ullrich, and he was the architect of several buildings at St Mary’s 1910-1912, including the chapel & alter which was featured on the St Mary’s 1913 calendar. It appears the second surviving bldg is one of Robert Ullrich’s bldg.

  • Byron Bennett Byron Bennett says:

    Hello David – thanks so very much for the post. I did not know your great grandfather was the architect at St. Mary’s and would like to learn what you discover about his work there. It is my hope the Archdiocese and/or St. Agnes will preserve those historical buildings. If you have any pictures you would be willing to share, I would be more than happy to post them on the site, giving you proper credit for them. Please keep me posted on your efforts. DBS

  • […] ties to Maryland are a good example of this theme, from the house where he was born, to the orphanage and baseball field where he grew up, to the Catholic church where he was married. Other places tied to the Babe, […]

  • Avatar Janet Donegan says:

    Trying to find out if there is a list of names for the boys in the team picture. One of the boys in the picture has been identified by a co-worker as one of his great uncles and is trying to verify it. Would appreciate any information you can share.

  • Byron Bennett Byron Bennett says:

    Hello Janet

    One of the players is Tom Padgett, who was a friend of Ruth’s and also played professional ball for Toronto in the Canadian League. He was killed by a train in New York while working as a brakeman in 1920.

    I am not certain which of the players is Padgett. I will see what else I can come up with. DBS

  • Avatar Janet Donegan says:

    Good Morning, Byron.
    Thank you so much for your quick response. My co-worker’s relative is a very elderly gentleman who is in the hospital and not doing well. He speaks of this photo and a relative in it. I believe the boy to the right of Babe is the person in question. Although, it would be great to be able to identity all of the boys. Would the school and/or the Catholic Diocese have records/ information regarding these boys? Thank you so much for your assistance.

  • Byron Bennett Byron Bennett says:

    Hello Janet

    Your best and perhaps quickest avenue would be the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum in Baltimore and its affiliated museum, the Sports Legends Museum. Both have contact info on their webpage. A copy of the same picture is on display at the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum. I can’t remember if other members of the team are identified in the display, but that could be quickly answered by a phone call. Also, there is a book Young Babe Ruth that might provide answer:
    Mentioned in that book (according to what I found on the internet) are some of Ruth’s friends a St. Mary’s including Tom Padgett, Bill Padgett, “Ike” Roussey, “Congo” Kirby, “Skinny” McCall, Jack Morgan, George Lee, “Izzy” Katz, “Loose” Buttons, “Sour” Krause, “Pickles” Heintz, and “Beans” Wagner. What is the name of the man’s relative? I’d be glad to research his name.

    Regards, David Stinson (Byron Bennett is a pen name of sorts).

  • Avatar Janet Donegan says:

    His name was James Joseph Bayliss. I found him in the 1910 census at the school. According to my co-worker the youngest boy on the team was him. The team picture a year later he was standing to Babe’s immediate right. I would appreciate anything you can do to help me in this venture. Thank you so much.

  • Hi David:

    I too am wondering if my great-great Grandfather is in one of those pictures. He was at St. Mary’s at the same time as Babe and he’d be listed as either Peter John Frye or John Peter Frye (we’ve found instances of his name being mixed up over the years). Would love to know if you happen to ever find a list of the names of the boys in the picture.

    Regards, Brian LoCicero

  • Avatar Mike Clements says:

    As a young boy growing up in Yale Heights I would buy penny candy at Leidigs bakery in Irvington the wonderful lady there was so patient with us kids while we methodically spent our dime she would tell me that I was standing right where Babe Ruth stood a few years ago I will never forget that or the wonderful lady with the big glass case of candy and kind soul

  • Byron Bennett Byron Bennett says:

    Hello Mike

    Thanks very much for the additional information about Babe Ruth and your memories of Leidig’s Bakery. Do you happen to remember where specifically Leidig’s Bakery was in Irvington and whether the building it was in still stands? I tried to do some internet research to find the location but was unsuccessful. Also, about what year would it have been when Babe Ruth visited the Bakery? Please let me know and thanks again for sharing such a great memory. DBS

  • […] the corner of South Canton Avenue and Wilkins Avenue was spared. There remains at the site today two structures dating back to Babe Ruth’s time at the […]

  • […] same summer George was sent away to St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, a school run by monks. George became a bit unruly, often skipping school and causing trouble in […]

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