10 Things You May Not Know About Babe Ruth
1. Ruth first gained fame as a pitcher.Although best remembered for swatting a prodigious 714 home runs and slugging .690, which remains a major-league record, Ruth was one of baseball’s most dominant left-handed pitchers in the 1910s. He won 89 games in six seasons with the ...read more
When Hank Aaron Passed the Babe
As Hank Aaron strode to the plate, the sellout crowd of 53,775 packed into Atlanta-Fulton County Stadium rose as one. All across the United States, baseball fans stopped whatever they were doing and crouched a little closer to their glowing television screens. The umpire reached ...read more
Babe Ruth dies
On August 16, 1948, baseball legend George Herman “Babe” Ruth dies from cancer in New York City. For two days following, his body lay in state at the main entrance to Yankee Stadium, and tens of thousands of people stood in line to pay their last respects. He was buried in ...read more
Babe Ruth retires
On June 2, 1935, Babe Ruth, one of the greatest players in the history of baseball, ends his Major League playing career after 22 seasons, 10 World Series and 714 home runs. The following year, Ruth, a larger-than-life figure whose name became synonymous with baseball, was one of ...read more
Babe Ruth sets a World Series record
On October 6, 1926, Yankee slugger Babe Ruth hits a record three homers against the St. Louis Cardinals in the fourth game of the World Series. The Yanks won the game 10-5, but despite Ruth’s unprecedented performance, they lost the championship in the seventh game. In 1928, in ...read more
Babe Ruth hits last home run
On May 25, 1935, at Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Babe Ruth hits his 714th home run, a record for career home runs that would stand for almost 40 years. This was one of Ruth’s last games, and the last home run of his career. Ruth went four for four on the day, hitting ...read more
Babe Ruth makes MLB debut
On July 11, 1914, in his major league debut, George Herman “Babe” Ruth pitches seven strong innings to lead the Boston Red Sox over the Cleveland Indians, 4-3. George Herman Ruth was born February 6, 1895, in Baltimore, Maryland, where his father worked as a saloon keeper on the ...read more
Babe Ruth hits 60th homer of 1927 season
On September 30, 1927, Babe Ruth hits his 60th home run of the 1927 season and with it sets a record that would stand for 34 years. George Herman Ruth was born February 6, 1895, in Baltimore, Maryland. He was the first of eight children, but only he and a sister survived infancy. ...read more
Babe Ruth, The Family Man
Within five months of being with the Orioles of International League, Babe went from Baltimore to the Major League Red Sox in Boston. His baseball career was running at warp speed. His personal life reflected the same dramatic changes. Babe wasn’t even in Boston for more than a few months before he met and married a young waitress by the name of Helen Woodford in October 1914.
Babe bought his new bride a farm house out in Sudbury, MA, where they lived happily together for a few years. The reality is, however, that, at the time that Babe married Helen, he was still so “new” to the world outside of St. Mary’s – the real world and real society. He was far from ready to really settle down. Babe was too interested in experiencing life’s adventures and appreciating all the attention and admiration that he was receiving as a baseball star to respect the responsibilities and bonds that marriage entailed.
When Ruth was traded to the Yankees in 1920, the couple moved to New York, where Babe thrived more than ever in the spotlight. And, he soaked up the energy, entertainment and night life of the city. Unfortunately, Helen was never comfortable with his fame and all the attention that came with it. This disconnect increased the tension between them.
Even so, in 1921, Babe and Helen adopted a baby girl, whom they named Dorothy after friend and Yankee teammate Waite Hoyt’s first wife (who also was Dorothy’s god-mother).
Sadly, sharing the love of a new baby was not enough to maintain their relationship and they slowly drifted further apart. Helen ultimately had enough of the crazy life in the big city and of her big celebrity husband and decided to move with Dorothy back to the quiet of their Sudbury, MA home. Being a Catholic and unable to divorce, Babe and Helen remained married throughout the 1920’s however, they ended up spending most of their marriage separated.
It was 1922 when Babe first met the next love of his life, whom he would ultimately marry and remain with for the rest of his life. Her name was Claire Hodgson.
Claire was born in Athens, GA, the daughter of a lawyer who often did legal work for Ty Cobb. Claire, motivated to start a career in show business, decided to move to New York in 1918 with her baby daughter, Julia. Claire eventually had success in New York as a model and a showgirl. In the course of her performing career, she had befriended actor Jim Barton, who, in 1922, took her to a Yankee game and introduced her to the Babe. Claire was intelligent, energetic, confident and very self-assured around the Babe. In very short time, Ruth was very smitten with Claire.
As the rest of the decade passed, Babe and Claire became very close, but remained as friends given Babe’s Catholic faith. In January 1929, Ruth’s wife, Helen, sadly passed away in a tragic house fire. The exact cause of the fire was never completely determined, but a lit cigarette was the main theory.
In April of the same year, Babe married Claire a day before opening day at Yankee Stadium. After their marriage, Claire quickly introduced some much-needed discipline to Babe’s life. She became his personal manager, managing everything from Babe’s outrageous spending sprees to his exercise and eating habits.
Babe also acquired an instant family, which included Babe’s adopted daughter Dorothy from his marriage with Helen, his newly-adopted daughter Julia from his marriage to Claire and Claire’s mother and two brothers from Athens, Georgia. Babe finally had the big family he had always wanted.
Julia Ruth Stevens recalled for BRC some of her memories of growing up with Babe Ruth as her father and their family life:
“Motherhad told me that he was going to adopt me and I was just thrilled and thought how amazing it would be to be the daughter of Babe Ruth. Of course I had called him Babe for all the years that I had known him. But when they got married, Mother told Dorothy that she needed to teach me to start calling Babe, “Daddy.” But it wasn’t long before I started calling him Daddy and I still call him Daddy to this day.
Daddy and Mother loved entertaining people at their home. Daddy loved his home and all the things that went on — all the holidays. They would almost always have a New Year’s party and I can remember some of the various people that used to come – Hoagy Carmichael would come and play the piano. That was just fabulous.
He liked to have people around him but there were lots of evenings though where we would play or cards or play checkers with Mommaand he would always beat her and she would get mad and walk out!
He was so grateful to have an honest to goodness family, due to losing his mother at such a young age. Mommaloved him and so did Gene and Hubert. He thought the world of all of them. It’s not everyday that someone would be willing to bring in a whole family like that. Maybe a mother-in-law, but also two brothers? But he just loved it.”
To hear more about Julia’s life with her “Daddy”, Babe Ruth, please visit Julia’s interview to hear more personal stories.
A predecessor of the group, called Shacklock after guitarist Alan Shacklock, was formed in 1970. Members included Janita Haan and Dave Hewitt, with Dave Punshon and Dick Powell later joining. The first release was their single "Wells Fargo" their first album, First Base, went gold in Canada. In 1973, Ed Spevock replaced Powell and Chris Holmes replaced Punshon on the second album. In 1975, Steve Gurl, keyboardist from Glenn Cornick's Wild Turkey replaced Holmes for the third album. The same year, Shacklock left the band to become a record producer and Bernie Marsden (Wild Turkey) joined the team for the fourth album. After this, Haan and Hewitt left.
Though no original member remained, the group incorporated Ellie Hope and Ray Knott for the fifth album in 1976. Shortly before Babe Ruth disbanded, they were joined by the young 17-year-old Birmingham born Simon Lambeth who made a few appearances on their last tour. Marsden moved on to join Whitesnake (after the short lived Paice Ashton Lord broke up) and Lambeth left the band.
Their 1975 single "Elusive" became a popular song on the Northern soul scene. In the US, "Elusive" also was a hit in the discos, peaking at #12 on the National Disco Action chart. 
A disco cover of Babe Ruth's "The Mexican" appeared in the late 1970s, performed by the Bombers. This version inspired an electro/freestyle cover produced by Jellybean Benitez in 1984, for which he managed to recruit Haan on vocals - the cover subsequently becoming noted for its popularity as an underground dance hit.
Between late 2005 and early 2006, Haan (now Janita Haan Morris), Hewitt, Shacklock, and Punshon reunited to record new material together in Nashville,  with Spevock recording his drums in London. The album, titled Que Pasa, was completed September 2006, and after being made available in digital form via the band's official web site, was released on Revolver Records in 2009.
The band embarked on a successful reunion tour of Canada in July 2010, playing three concerts at Ottawa Bluesfest, Metropolis Montreal, and Festival International du Blues de Tremblant.
On 28 June 2014, Babe Ruth played their only show in the world for 2014 at Milwaukee's Summerfest over 7000 attended.
It’s 1895. In this year, the x-ray form of radiation is discovered. Alfred Nobel creates his last will and testament that will establish and fund the “Nobel Prize” upon his death the following year. Frederick Douglass, the ex-slave and author, and Louis Pasteur, the French microbiologist, die. J. Edgar Hoover (who will become FBI Director), Bud Abbott and Buster Keaton (both actors) are born. And, on Wednesday, February 6, 1895, so is a baby boy born to working-class parents in a brick row house in Baltimore, MD.This baby boy is George Herman Ruth, Jr., who will later become known as “Babe” Ruth – one of the greatest professional athletes of all time. The house is at 216 Emory Street, which will later become the Babe Ruth Birthplace & Museum – a shrine to this baseball great.
George Jr. was the son of George Herman, a saloon keeper of German descent, and Kate, a mother with an Irish and German background. George Sr. and Kate had a total of eight children, although only George Jr. and his sister, Mamie, survived childhood. The Ruths were hardworking people. George Sr. was employed as a bartender at a local tavern and Kate also worked there. The hours were long and the work was hard. It did not leave much time for the family and raising the children.
And, George Jr. was considered to be an “incorrigible” kid, making it even harder for his time-strapped parents to properly raise their son. By age 7, George Jr. was running around the streets of the neighborhood, called “Ridgely’s Delight”, between the docks of the central harbor and the terminals of the Baltimore & Ohio railroad. It was in these streets that young, George Jr., got himself into constant trouble, picking up some of his behavior from the dockyard workers. He was said to throw tomatoes at police officers. He was said to roughhouse and get into some minor fights. He was said to be caught chewing tobacco and occasionally drinking. In general, he was a child, lacking the supervision and discipline from adults, who didn’t know better.
But at age 7, that all changed. Recognizing that they did not have the time, or maybe also the ability, to control their trouble-making son, his parents made a difficult decision. They determined that George Jr. needed a stricter environment and more direction. They sought that from the St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, also in Baltimore, where they sent George Jr. in 1902.
Although only a few miles away from the row house where George Jr. was born and the neighborhood in which he roamed, St. Mary’s School was a world apart from his former surroundings. The school was run by Xaverian Brothers- a brotherhood of lay men who take religious vows, but are not ordained. It was part orphanage, part trade school and, even, part reform school. The rules were strict and the Brothers enforced discipline. They also taught vocations to their students and encouraged participation in sports.
It was only discovered more recently, that Babe actually suffered from ADHD (attention deficit disorder), which contributed to Babe’s wild, hyperactive nature – both in childhood and at times as an adult. It is also believed that Babe’s ADHD was a factor in his excellent baseball skills. ADHD generally limits one’s focus however, when the mind is completely engaged in a particular subject or skill, ADHD can actually enhance that skill. Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison and Mozart are some other significant figures whose ADHD actually increased their level of ability in their field of expertise.
Being sent away to St. Mary’s by his parents would ultimately have a significant impact on Babe’s future personality. And, in this very different setting, George Jr.’s life began to dramatically change. It was where Babe was introduced to two of the most important influences in his life: his mentor, Brother Mathias, and his key to greatness, baseball.
Brother Mathias was one of the brothers at St. Mary’s who quickly took a liking to George. Brother Mathias was one of the school’s disciplinarians, yet he was the closest thing to a father figure for George while he living at St. Mary’s.
Brother Mathias was stern, but kind. Most importantly, he was George Jr.’s primary source for attention and confidence while growing up in the orphanage.
St. Mary’s had multiple Baseball leagues, broken out by age groups, and George Jr. was instantly drawn to the game. Several of the monks, including Brother Gilbert, taught Babe the finer points of baseball, although Brother Mathias was his first and favorite instructor of the game. In Julia Ruth Stevens’ words: “I think a lot of Babe’s good coordination came from when he lived at St. Mary’s and played baseball with Brother Mathias. He took a great interest in Daddy and Daddy loved Brother Mathias. He was the one that introduced Babe to Baseball and showed him what the game was all about. Daddy did, he really did love Brother Mathias.”
To hear a little bit more about the special relationship Babe had with Brother Mathias, please visit Julia Ruth Stevens’ interview in the Audio Interviews section.
Babe later attributed his good fielding abilities to Mathias, who worked frequently with him, playing catch and hitting lobs and fungoes to George. The two of them worked for hours at a time, honing Babe’s skills. Mathias can also be attributed with turning George into a pitcher. It was said that, one day, George was teasing his team’s pitcher, when this pitcher was having a bad day at the mound. Brother Mathias responded by putting George into the game as a reliever for the teammate that he had just been taunting. George went in and pitched a great game. After that, he quickly became a regular pitcher.
It was as a pitcher, that George was first discovered by a professional baseball team in 1914. Jack Dunn was owner of the minor league Baltimore Orioles, and was considered by many to be a good scout for promising potential Major League players. He had heard through the grapevine about an 18-year-old by the name of George Ruth, who was part of a traveling team for St. Mary’s Industrial, and was a dominant pitcher in his league. After George was scouted by the Orioles, it wasn’t long before Ruth was signed to play.
In order for Ruth to play with the team, however, Jack Dunn needed to sign for him and become his legal guardian (at the time it was required for a minor to have a legal guardian until the age of 21). And so, George became a Baltimore Oriole, with Jack Dunn as his trustee.
Given that Ruth had spent most of his formative years – from age 7 to age 18 — behind the protective walls of St. Mary’s, it was at first overwhelming for George to suddenly be on the outside in the real world. As such and as the youngest member of the Orioles team, he tended to tag-along with his new guardian Dunn. Legend has it that, when Babe walked to the pitcher’s mound for the first time in Spring Training, with Dunn at his side, one of his new teammates shouted “Look at Dunnie and his new babe.” Yet, however it actually happened, George quickly became known to the other Orioles as “Jack’s babe” and, ultimately, the nickname stuck. George became most popularly known as Babe Ruth.
The film begins in 1906 at the Baltimore Waterfront, where 11-year-old George Herman Ruth Jr. is taken away by Brother Matthias from George's abusive father to St. Mary's. When George is 18, his incredible baseball talent gets him hired to play for the Baltimore Orioles, and during the interview, he gets his "Babe" nickname.
Babe becomes a successful baseball player and is soon sold off to play for the Boston Red Sox. After a bad game, Babe wonders what went wrong at a bar, until he is told by Claire Hogsdon that when he pitches he sticks out his tongue. He continues his success, landing a new $100,000 contract. He finds Claire, but she gives him the cold shoulder. During one game, Denny, a sick paralyzed child, and his father watch Babe Ruth play. When Babe says "Hiya, kid" to the boy, the child is miraculously cured and stands up.
Babe soon becomes a player for the New York Yankees. During one game, he accidentally hurts a dog and decides to take the dog and the dog's young owner to the hospital. After Babe argues with the doctors that a dog is the same as a human, the dog is treated, but because Babe left a game to do this, he gets suspended from the Yankees. A depressed Babe Ruth finds himself at a bar, and amidst the crowd giving off negative vibes, he starts a fight and gets arrested.
Soon, he decides to play Santa Claus at a Children's Hospital, where he runs into Claire again, visiting her nephew. She tells him that his actions affect the children of America, and Babe decides to keep that in mind. Miller Huggins, the same man who suspended Babe, fights to bring him back to the Yankees as the team has had a bad season. Babe is soon brought back, and the team wins the World Series thanks to him. With this, he and Claire get married. Soon after, Huggins dies from pyaemia.
During Game 3 of the 1932 World Series, Babe gets a call from the father of a dying child and promises the father that when he goes up to bat, he will call the third shot and the ball will land at a certain spot all of this will be for the boy. During the game, Babe does exactly that, and the boy hears the news and starts to get better.
Babe retires from the Yankees at the age of 41, and takes a management position with the Boston Braves, even though they want him to play in the games despite his age. During one game, Babe gets stressed out and can't continue playing, and retires from baseball after that game. Sadly, this means he goes off contract by retiring during his time with the Braves and is fired from anything related to baseball.
Later, Babe complains of neck pain and soon learns that he is dying of throat cancer. The news of this leads fans to send letters telling Babe that they care. The doctors decide to try a treatment on Babe with a chance that he'll survive. As Babe is taken to surgery, the narrator gives words of encouragement to baseball fans, crediting Babe Ruth for America's love of the sport.
- as Babe Ruth as Claire Hodgson Ruth as Brother Matthias as Jack Dunn as Babe Ruth as a Boy as Phil Conrad
- Matt Briggs as Col. Jacob Ruppert
- Fred Lightner as Miller Huggins as Himself as Himself as Himself as Newsboy (uncredited) as Babe Ruth's Father (uncredited) as Danny's Father (uncredited) as Danny (uncredited) as Taxicab Driver (uncredited)
Upon learning that the first choice for the lead role, Jack Carson, would not be released from Warner Bros., the producers chose Bendix. 
The film was rushed to release after news of Ruth's declining health, and makes no mention whatsoever of Ruth's first wife, Helen. The film was released three weeks before Babe Ruth died.
Some contemporary reviews were positive, with Bendix drawing accolades from a number of critics for his performance. Variety called the film "interesting, if semi-fictional," writing that it combined "warmth, tears and chuckles into a film that will sustain audience interest," with a performance by Bendix that had "a lot of heart."  Harrison's Reports called it "a highly successful picture, from the box-office as well as the entertainment point of view," adding that Bendix "handles his part with skill and restraint," and that "few people will come out of the theatre with dry eyes."  BoxOffice also ran a positive review, praising the film for its "great warmth and its constant down-to-earth humanness" with "much to appeal to every taste and age," and calling Bendix's portrayal of Ruth "flawless."  Shirley Povich of The Washington Post called Bendix "a believable Babe Ruth who, saddled with some of the worst lines and situations ever handed an actor, waded smartly through the mess and gave the screen its best baseball picture . Hollywood didn't have to take all that license with it, but the nice thing is that the story of Ruth is too powerful for even Hollywood to mess up more than a trifle." 
Negative reviews cited the film's moments of heavy-handedness, lack of good baseball action scenes, and dubious portrayal of Ruth as a childlike, kind-hearted oaf. Bosley Crowther of The New York Times wrote that it had "much more the tone of low-grade fiction than it has of biography . it is hard to accept the presentation of a great, mawkish, noble-spirited buffoon which William Bendix gives in this picture as a reasonable facsimile of the Babe." Crowther also found it "a little incongruous to see a picture about a baseball star containing no more than a minimum of action on a playing field—and most of that studio action which is patently phony and absurd."  John McCarten of The New Yorker also panned the film, calling it "soggy with bathos" and writing of Bendix that he "handles a bat as if it were as hard to manipulate as a barrel stave. Even with a putty nose, Mr. Bendix resembles Mr. Ruth not at all, and he certainly does the hitter an injustice by representing him as a kind of Neanderthal fellow."  Otis Guernsey Jr. of the New York Herald Tribune wrote that the movie "has been sentimentalized out of all possibility of stimulating film biography. It would be hard to find a more colorful American figure than the Babe for motion picture documentation and it would be difficult to do a worse job with him than has been done here."  The Monthly Film Bulletin of Britain wrote: "This film illustrates the American habit of canonizing baseball players, for apparently Babe Ruth did not only perform remarkable feats on the field, but could also perform miracles by curing the sick and the crippled. This power is demonstrated four times in the film, each in an increasingly embarrassing manner, and William Bendix portrays Babe Ruth as a half-witted giant without any redeeming pathos." 
Babe Ruth’s Effect on American Culture
Although he died in 1948, over the course of time, Babe seems to continue to live on in the hearts of fans. On April 8, 1974, one of the most significant moments in baseball history occurred, when Hank Aaron broke Babe Ruth’s career homerun record of 714. For Mr. Aaron, this should have been a totally joyous, crowning achievement of his baseball career and life. Unfortunately, however, there was a significant amount of people who negatively responded to his great achievement (It should be noted that this was also experienced, to a lesser degree, by Roger Maris, when he broke Babe’s single-season homerun mark in 1961).
Tom Stanton, who wrote the book “Hank Aaron and the Homerun that Changed America”, even acknowledged, “There was that element that didn’t want Aaron to break the record because he was African American, but there were many more people, I think, who just had such cherished memories of Babe Ruth that they just didn’t want anybody breaking the record. He was such a beloved character in American history.” That was how strong Babe’s achievements and persona had become ingrained in American culture.
This same phenomenon was recently repeated, when baseball fans saw a similar response to Barry Bonds’ eclipse of Babe’s career homerun mark. Although there were different reasons for a lot of the negative sentiment towards Bonds as he was approaching the Babe’s mark, a portion of the response was still very similar to Aaron’s defining moment. A lot of fans simply didn’t want another player breaking Babe’ mark – a clear sign of their loyalty to the Babe, as well as their desire to ensure his continued prominence in baseball history.
When BRC asked Julia Ruth Stevens, Babe’s daughter, how Babe would respond to Aaron and Bonds breaking his career homerun mark, she said, “He would have been fine with it. Daddy used to always say, ‘Records are made to be broken.’”
So how and why does the Babe continue to have a presence in our lives? Perhaps it’s a result of stories passed down through generations of how the Babe somehow touched the lives of parents, grandparents, great-grandparents, and so on. Or, perhaps it’s the stories captured in the numerous books or articles that continue to be published throughout the decades.
Perhaps it’s the even the multiple TV commercials that continue to feature the Babe years after his death: in 1998, a “Claymation” Babe was featured as a character in a Lipton Ice Tea commercial in 2005, Bud-Lite humorously reenacted the “Called Shot” homerun and, as recently as the summer of 2006, a commercial for DHL portrayed Babe Ruth on a plaque on the wall boasting the number of hot dogs he ate in his lifetime to other famous stars such as Cal Ripken and Honus Wagner.
Perhaps it’s the ongoing references about and comparisons to the Babe still made frequently on sports news shows. Or, maybe it’s a result of the number of films that focus on his life: a number of documentaries, two feature films and a TV movie have been made on the Babe (some more successful and accurate, than others). In fact, an animated children’s movie was just released in September 2006 called, “Everybody’s Hero”, which is a story of a boy’s journey to try and reclaim the stolen bat of his hero, Babe Ruth.
Perhaps it’s even the lexicon that has grown out of Babe’s impact on American culture, with phrases such as “the most Ruthian of…” and “the Babe Ruth of…” still being sprinkled in all types of contexts.
At the end of the day, it’s probably a little of all of the elements mentioned above that contribute to the Ruth’s ongoing effect on the baseball fan. But one thing is for certain, it requires a unique and special hero to continue to have the effect that Babe Ruth still has today.
Mike Gibbons, Executive Director of the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum in Baltimore, shared some of his sentiments with BRC regarding the Babe’s lasting presence, “At the celebration of various milestones of the Babe, like his birth or death or a significant homerun, you’ll find that fans will send things to the museum or come hereor to his gravesite in New York to leave mementos. You know, people are always trying to find a way to link up with Babe Ruth. We get calls and letters and emails all the time from people that have a special affinity for him. – it demonstrates so clearly, the passion that America’s fans have for this guy.”
There are dozens, if not hundreds, of stories of how Babe impacted someone’s life. Do you also have a story of how Babe touched you or someone in your family? Tell us your stories and you may be featured here as well!
The Early Life and Career of Babe Ruth in His Own Words
100 years ago today, the most iconic baseball player who ever lived made his Major League debut. The 19-year-old pitcher got the win for Boston, giving up three runs — two earned — over six-plus innings against Cleveland. In that first game, he failed to display the sort of power at the plate for which he would become famous, going 0-for-2. The rest of the season was equally unremarkable — he appeared in just three more games with the Red Sox before being sent back to the minors. But it didn't take long for Babe Ruth to become a sensation.
In 1919, Ruth set a new Major League record for single-season home runs with 29 longballs, but that didn't stop Boston from selling his contract to the New York Yankees in the offseason, setting another new record with the price. The New York Times celebrated the acquisition:
New York Times via Newspaper.com
Although he had left the Red Sox behind, late in the 1920 season Ruth penned a 12-part series for the Boston Post detailing his life and career until that point. It's unlikely there was much fact-checking of the first-person, bylined columns, so keep that in mind when it comes to particularly self-aggrandizing anecdotes. But the Babe really was an amazing athlete, already a legend during his life and still the best-known name in all of baseball. Let's take a look at what he had to say about himself.
Chapter 1: August 9, 1920 — Babe's First at Bat
First things first, Ruth wants you to know that St. Mary's Industrial School, where he spent 12 years starting at the age of seven, was, "the sort of institution where unruly young rascals are taken in hand by men of big character, and taught to be men." Ruth had played hookey from his traditional elementary school one too many times so his parents sent him away to receive "some discipline and close supervision."
Although homesickness and having to miss his mother's death made it hard to adjust to life at St. Mary's, it was there that Ruth honed the skills that would make him famous. And quickly, too:
On the second day in school, I made the Colts, the smallest ball team in the institution, as a catcher, and it was only a couple days later that I stepped up to the plate with the bases full, measured a nice groove ball and soccer it over the centre-fielder’s head for the first home run of my career.
Since that day I have put over a good many home run wallops, but no drive I have ever made meant half so much to me as my first home run at St. Mary’s.
Chapter 2: August 10, 1920 — Becoming a Pro
Under the tutelage of Brother Matthias, Ruth's baseball ability flourished. The mentor insisted all his athletes learn to play every position on the field. "Whatever I may have done at the bat or on the mound or in the outfield or even on the bases," he writes, "I owe directly to Brother Matthias."
Ruth insists it wasn't all baseball at St. Mary's. Although other sports held little interest for him, he worked hard on his studies, learned shirt-making as a trade, and gained a lasting sense of piety.
You heard some pretty loud cheering at our ball games, from a lot of us who were said to be roughnecks, but Brother Matthias was there, and out of respect for him, if for no other reason, there was no bad language. For 12 years in St. Mary’s I went to church every day, and I have never missed a Sunday since I left the school.
But make no mistake, even at a school with 44 different baseball teams, the Babe's ability stood out on the diamond.
If the baseball fan thinks that my home runs come easy now they should have seen the games at St. Mary’s in the early slugging days when I often made three homers in an afternoon.
By 17, he had earned a spot on the school's first team, "which had uniforms — and everything," leap-frogging many of his older classmates. Although Ruth said it felt like had "signed with the world's champs," bigger things were just around the corner.
One day in the winter of 1913-1914, Ruth was called to Brother Matthias' office for what he feared was a lecture about some wrong doing. What he got instead, was some life-changing news.
As I came in, I took off my cap and waited for it to happen. I looked from Brother Matthias to the visitor, and was surprised and a whole lot relieved to find that nobody was scowling at me. Brother Matthias took me by the arm and led me around in front of the visitor to introduce me to somebody he said was Mr. John Dunn. Of course, Jack Dunn, manager of the Baltimore Internationals, was sort of an idol to the boys of St. Mary’s, but hardly any of us had ever seen him, so the name “Mr. John Dunn” meant little me. When, after a few words, he asked me if I wouldn’t like to play baseball on the Baltimore Internationals, I almost fell over.
At the time, Baltimore was a Minor League team, but Jack Dunn was ready to pay Ruth $600 to play ball. Since he was just 19 at the time, Brother Matthias had to sign the contract for him and when he did, Ruth left St. Mary's to be a professional baseball player.
Chapter 3: August 11, 1920 — Spring Training
"The trip to Fayetteville was a great event in the life of a boy who had been under strict discipline for 12 years," Ruth writes of his journey to join Baltimore's Spring Training. Along with the other rookies, Ruth was competing for a spot on the squad and resented any delay in proving himself:
For two days Jack Dunn had us out limbering up with the mildest sort of ball-tossing. I didn’t like it, because I had been limber for 12 years and wanted a chance to show that I could put the ball clear out of the park if they’d let me lean a bat against it.
His impatience paid off and in his first at bat, Ruth hit one of his signature homers. The display quickly earned him a permanent place on the team and when they played an exhibition game against Connie Mack's World Champion Athletics, Ruth got the start and the win.
With the season underway, Ruth became a regular on the pitching roster, but his hitting suffered as he adjusted to professional pitchers. Just a few months after his departure, Ruth requested a short leave from the Orioles to return to St. Mary's. His former classmates were so excited that a speech was arranged:
As a speech this was a foul ball I hadn’t any swing at all, but the boys were decent to me, so I told them how the professional ball players too care of themselves physically and that sort of thing.
Chapter 4: August 12, 1920 — Meeting Miss Helen Woodford
Ruth is bought by the Major League Red Sox just five months after leaving St. Mary's. But after making his debut —100 years ago today— he ends up spending most of the 1914 season on the bench or back in the Minors, with no home runs to his name. 1915 was better off the mound — 18 wins and 7 losses back in the bigs — but a mere four home runs. After that, "the season of 1916 was the least successful from a batting viewpoint that I have ever played in the big leagues." Of course, Ruth's self-deprecation masks the fact that he won 23 games as a pitcher that season and helped his Red Sox to a World Championship. But even that is hardly the highlight of the column.
Back in 1914, Ruth found himself suddenly aware of the crowd that attended the Red Sox' games.
Along about this time I began playing to the grand stand. But don’t misunderstand me. There was only one person in the grandstand. Oh there might have been from 15 to 20 thousand other. But she’d have been the whole crowd among 20 million.
Did I say she? I believe I did. And I was writing about Miss Helen Woodford, a Texas girl, so pretty, that any time she failed to show up I was useless.
She was a student at a Boston college and just a few months after meeting, in October 1914, she and Babe Ruth were married. Several years after the Boston Post columns, Ruth's many (well-known) infidelities would lead to the couple's separation. But writing in 1920, he still felt her very much to be his "better 90 percent." He praised her baseball knowledge and dedication to his games and even gave a glimpse at their married life, confessing to playing the organ for her and writing that, "she doesn’t call me Babe she calls me Hon. And what I call her is — between us."
Chapter 5: August 13, 1920 — How to Hit
Ruth gives aspiring ballplayers who have tolerated his sentimentality to this point what they want: he explains — or tries to — how it is he hit all those home runs.
I suppose when you get down to it, there are several things that enable a man to hit home runs — batting eye, how he stands at the plate, how he swings, his strength and weight and his confidence. Let’s take them up in order.
On keeping your eye on the ball:
It’s easy enough to follow the ball half way from the box to the plate. After that is when the pitcher fools the hitter…I believe that one of the secrets of my hitting is my ability to keep my eye on the ball longer than any other batter, even until it started to break.
First of all I get my feet in the exact position, the right one a little in advance of the left. My right leg is bent just a little at the knee, and as I stand this way the pitcher gets more view of my back and right him than of my chest or side. The weight of my body is, at the beginning, on my left leg. When the ball comes up, I shift my weight to my right foot, which steps out directly toward the pitcher as my bat, my arms and my whole body swing forward for the blow.
At the start of my swing I reach back with my bat as far as I can, almost turning my back on the pitcher. As my bat comes forward the movement with which I throw my weight against the ball often carries my right foot beyond the chalk line of the batter’s box. The greatest power in the stroke comes when the bat is halfway through the swing — I mean directly in front of my body, and that is where it meets the ball.
In our growing picture of Babe Ruth, here he makes the claim to use a 54 ounce bat and admits to only caring to hit home runs.
Chapter 6: August 14, 1920 — The Great Injustice
It isn’t fair to the batter, it isn’t fair to his club. It’s a raw deal for the fans and it isn’t baseball. By “baseball” I mean good, square American sportsmanship, because baseball represents American in sport.
In the opening of his sixth installment for the Boston Post, Ruth introduces what he feels to be the great injustice of his era in the game. It isn't steroids, or even gambling, but intentional walks — or "intentional passes" as they were known — that really "gets [his] goat."
Ruth talks of proposed rules to prevent intentional walks, however, it's hard to imagine that his suggestion that all walks should count for two bases instead of one sounded much more reasonable back then than it does now.
With 101 walks in the 1919 season, Ruth can take personal offense at intentional passes. Of course, this was long before the appreciation of on base percentage, but Ruth's particular frustration still speaks to his confidence in routinely hitting the ball out of the park.
As for how his time as a pitcher effects his perspective, Ruth has this to say:
Of course there’s a great temptation to walk the men but after all, winning isn’t all there is to sport. Believing this, I never gave an intentional pass in all my life, even though the manager signaled for one from the bench.
Chapter 7: August 15, 1920 — The Babe Predicts His Record
It's hard to imagine that Babe Ruth ever underestimated himself. Especially in the same column that features a claim for a 500 foot home run — long before such things were able to be measured. But buried deep in this account of his favorite shots — of which there was at least one at every stadium in the Bigs in 1919 — comes this prediction:
The 1919 season was a short one, you know. The schedule called for 140 games, of which I played only 130. Normally, the schedule reads 154 games, so you see I got my 29 official home runs and my 31 one actual ones on short rations. I felt sure I’d be able to beat that record this season, and now I have proved it, with a long time to go. I don’t make any promises but at the rate I’m going now I think I can see something hanging up that looks mighty like a 45 —if the pitchers behave.
He went on to hit 54 home runs that season.
Chapter 8: August 16, 1920 — Pitching vs. Hitting
Although in Chapter 4 Ruth remembers 1916 has his worst season at the plate, here he recounts the pitching successes he enjoyed — and there were many. His 40 games started, nine shutouts, and 1.75 ERA were all best in the league. The column details perhaps his most significant start of the year: 14 innings of one-run ball to give his Red Sox a win in the second game of the World Series.
However he soon returns to considering his offensive struggles:
Here I was, a young fellow with a minor league record as a fence-buster, up in the big time with about 200 pounds of physique, a big bunch of muscles and all the confidence of a cocksure kid — and I was either missing them altogether or sending up skyrockets for easy outs.
It was clear Ruth could make a career out of pitching, but it wasn't just that hitting homers was more fun. Pitchers are only good as long as their arms are strong, and "a batter's eye ordinarily lasts longer than a pitcher's arm." With that in mind, Ruth worked hard in the offseason and brought his average up from .272 in 1916 to .325 in 1917 — good for fifth in the league. But still, home runs eluded him with just two hit that year.
Chapter 9: August 18, 1920
In order to hit more, Ruth had to pitch less. It wasn't just a matter of preserving his arm — pitchers only played once every few days and for Ruth that simply wouldn't do. Over the 1917 and 1918 seasons, Ruth started spending more time at first base and in the outfield. But in 1918, the Red Sox made their second World Series appearance in three years and Ruth extended his streak of scoreless postseason innings to 29. It was his last great success on the mound.
It is true that I hurled 17 games in the following season, 1919, but it was to be Babe Ruth, outfielder, after this….
In four whole seasons and two small fractions of seasons, I pitched a total of 133 games for a grand hurling average of .662. Once I had led the league as a moundsman and, although I left the hill for good and all, I did so in good standing and with a record of which I felt a little proud.
Chapter 10: August 20, 1920 — Babe Meets the New York Press
Ruth wraps his consideration of the historic 1919 season with a marvel at his own prowess:
That seemed such a big order that in my wildest dreams of being a home run champion I never expected to be putting them over the fence as an almost daily stunt.
And a complaint that he could have hit even more homers if only he hadn't adjusted his swing to try to hit more balls to left and center. Well on his way to becoming the larger-than-life center of the sporting world, Ruth rankles at his Red Sox salary — and is willing to say so.
I was tied up to the Red Sox with a contract which certainly did not call for the salary that a man with a home run record of 29 in a season deserved. I tried to open the deal for a raise, but couldn’t get Harry Frazee to see my side of it.
The Yankees were willing to pay well for the home run king — $125,000, the largest sum ever paid for a baseball player. That money went to Frazee and the Red Sox, not Ruth, but he soon worked out a satisfactory new contract and started the 1920 season in New York. There, the former reform-school boy found the media scene in the Big Apple unlike anything he had ever experienced:
After we got away for the spring training I found myself up against something that puzzled me a lot more than Walter Johnson’s speed or Eddie Cicotte’s snake ball. This was the sport writer. They asked me all kinds of things about my bat and how I held it and how I swung it they wanted to look at my eyes and one fellow got me to strip off my shirt to give my back muscles the once over. At first I thought they were kidding me, but it didn’t do me any good to find out they weren’t.
Chapter 11: August 22, 1920 — Great Expectations
It's safe to say now that the Yankees got their money's worth with Babe Ruth, but at the time, the sensational sum came with equally high expectations. No one felt this more accutely than Ruth himself.
Could I make good $130,000 worth? It was a big order, but if home runs were what they wanted for their money, I felt certain of delivering the good, because my eyes were on the ball and I knew it. If I felt down I was sure I’d get the most classic raxxing(sic) in the history of the game.
But of course, Ruth can only feel ambivalent about his ability for so long. The rest of the chapter is given over to comparing his partial season in New York to previous home run champions — and finding himself far superior.
In writing this story of my career, I have been looking over a lot of old records and have just discovered that Frank Baer’s total of homers in the four straight years that he led the league was just exactly what I have done this season with more than a month to go —41. In less than two full seasons, 1919 and 1920, my grand slams mount up to 70. Do you know that the home run leaders of the American league ran up a total of only 72 in eight full seasons, from 1908 to 1915 inclusive?
Chapter 12: August 23, 1920 — The "Wind-Up"
Writing a story about yourself is very different from pitching a ball, because in writing the “wind-up” is the last thing of all. But I’ve given you my best delivery and tried to tell you all about myself that I think would interest you… So here goes for the “wind-up."
After delving into a few more reminisces, Ruth "winds up" his series with advice for young boys:
Take my advice and learn to play every position on the nine.
Above all, learn to keep your temper. Forget what I said about losing my own, because that never got me anywhere.
If you haven’t started to smoke, don’t begin now. If you have, keep it down, especially during playing season. I smoke a lot of cigars and wish I didn’t, but I own a cigar factory, which I’ve got to keep busy.
And here’s another thing: Get married. Pick a nice young girl who understands you —she’ll understand you a long time before you understand and appreciate her—and make a home run.
Go to school as long as you can. There is plenty of time for baseball after 3 o’clock and during the summer vacations. I wish I had had more books — maybe I’d be a better author than I am.
Was Babe Ruth Black?
Suspicions that Babe Ruth was a person of color have been swamping around for decades. Born George Herman “Babe” Ruth Jr. in 1895, Ruth began his professional career in 1914 as a stellar left-handed pitcher for the Boston Red Sox before becoming a celebrated slugging outfielder for the New York Yankees and, arguably, the greatest player of all-time. However, at a time when having even “one-drop” of black blood could get a brother hung, Ruth was taunted for his wide nose and full lips, while many questioned his heritage. He vehemently denied the rumors, but his frequent carousing in Harlem with black elites and athletes during the 1920s, as well as his liking for black women, didn’t help. Plus, to make matters worse, he was said to have supported racial integration in the Major League Baseball years before Jackie Robinson officially broke the color barrier in 1947.
Back in 2014, Ruth’s adopted daughter, Julia Ruth Stevens, told The New York Times that “The Sultan of Swat” was “blackballed” from becoming an MLB manager after his retirement because it was feared that he would recruit players of color. “Daddy would have had blacks on his team,” said Stevens, who passed away on Saturday at the age of 102.
In addition to suppositions that persisted about his race, Ruth was viciously attacked and reportedly called the N-word by opposing team members. According to legendary sportswriter Fred Lieb, Ty Cobb infamously refused to share a cabin with Ruth at a Georgia hunting lodge, saying “I’ve never bedded down with a n—– and I’m not going to start now.”
Making of a Legend
To understand the man, you first must understand the legend.
George Herman Ruth overshadowed the game – and remains to this day the very essence of baseball. His career, on and off the field, made him one of the most famous Americans to have ever lived.
He is the definition of a “Hall of Famer.”
“Babe Ruth is not just a legend now, he was a legend in his own time,” said Hall of Fame senior curator Tom Shieber. “That’s rare. And that’s a big reason why we’ve got an exhibit dedicated to only him.”
The National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum has long allocated precious exhibit space to Ruth, a member of the Hall’s inaugural Class of 1936. In the spring of 2014, the 180-square foot Ruth exhibit was re-curated to bring new life – and a new light – to one of baseball’s most familiar stories as baseball celebrated the 100th anniversary of his big league debut on July 11, 1914.
A view of the updated Babe Ruth exhibit at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, 2014. (Milo Stewart, Jr. / National Baseball Hall of Fame)
“It’s the fact that Ruth’s impact goes so far beyond baseball that makes him truly exceptional.”
“If you’ve been to the Museum before, you won’t recognize the exhibit even though it will be in the same space,” said Shieber, the Ruth exhibit’s lead curator who is charged with sifting through hundreds of Ruth artifacts and ephemera to create the new second-floor time capsule. “As a team, we started out with what seemed to be a simple question: ‘Why do an exhibit on Babe Ruth?’
“The answer – his status as a legend – constantly informs us as we go about making choices for the exhibit.”
Born Feb. 6, 1895 in Baltimore, Md., Ruth came of age as mass communication devices like radio and movies shrunk the distance from sea to sea. As a young left-handed pitcher with the Red Sox, he was one of the game’s heroes. But later as a power-hitting outfielder for the Yankees, Ruth became an icon – transcending sport.
Ruth became the first star of a world where virtually every citizen could share in common media experiences. The Museum’s new exhibit will give visitors the chance to encounter Ruth’s grandeur in the words of the people who saw it.
“The design of this exhibit is very different than anything we’ve ever done before,” said Erik Strohl, the Museum’s vice president for exhibitions and collections. “It (borrows) from the concept of a scrapbook, where you can read about Ruth through contemporary sources such as real newspaper stories, historic photographs and rare ephemera.
A partial view of the updated Babe Ruth exhibit, 2014. (Milo Stewart, Jr. / National Baseball Hall of Fame)
“It (looks) at Ruth as if you were back in his own time. You’ll be there to get a first-hand sense of his legend.”
Ruth’s legend was built on the diamond. After three dominant seasons in Boston as a pitcher – where he won 65 games from 1915-17 and was widely considered the game’s best left-hander – Ruth transitioned to the outfield, where he led the American League in home runs with 11 in 1918 before hitting a record 29 home runs in 1919.
Prior to the 1920 season, the Red Sox sold Ruth to the Yankees – planting the seeds of a dynasty. With 54 home runs in 1920 and 59 more in 1921, Ruth captured the attention of a nation.
But Ruth’s legend was more than just numbers. He became an oversized symbol of America’s power, a brilliant man with human flaws that made him seem more real than mythic.
The new exhibit will feature artifacts that tell both sides of this story, such as a trophy presented to Ruth by his “Baltimore admirers” on May 20, 1922.
“You look at this beautiful trophy and immediately recognize that it is special,” Shieber said. “What you may not recognize is the date. May 20, 1922 was the day Ruth returned to the Yankees after being suspended for the start of the season by Commissioner Landis for illegally barnstorming after the World Series. Fans from his hometown made the nearly 400-mile trek to New York just to welcome him back to the big leagues.
A view of the updated Babe Ruth exhibit, 2014. (Milo Stewart, Jr. / National Baseball Hall of Fame)
Trophy presented to Babe Ruth by his "Baltimore admirers" on May 20, 1922,when he was allowed back to the Yankees after being suspended. B-64.49 (Milo Stewart, Jr. / National Baseball Hall of Fame)
“It’s stories like that which fill out the picture of his legend and what he meant to America.”
The exhibit features documents like:
The contract that transferred Ruth, Ernie Shore and Ben Egan from the Baltimore Orioles of the International League to the Red Sox on July 11, 1914.
The type-written notes used by AL president Will Harridge for his speech on Babe Ruth Day at Yankee Stadium on April 27, 1947. Harridge – himself a Hall of Famer – typed the words: “To say ‘Babe Ruth’ is to say ‘Baseball’”
The exhibit also contains one of the most famous jerseys Ruth ever wore – but one that never saw a big league game.
“We have his jersey from June 13, 1948 – when Ruth’s No. 3 was officially retired,” Shieber said. “That day, after the ceremony at Yankee Stadium that featured the Pulitzer Prize-winning Nat Fein photo of Ruth standing on the field, Ruth gave the jersey he wore to a Hall of Fame representative. Through research conducted last year, we determined that the jersey was one he wore throughout his retirement – starting with his cameo appearance in “Pride of the Yankees” in 1942. It was a movie costume, but the Babe wore it over the next few years at benefit games, like one where he faced Walter Johnson in a drive for war bonds and another where he met Ted Williams for the first time.
“I cannot imagine a more important or significant non game-used uniform.”
When cancer claimed Ruth’s life in 1948, he was only 53 years old. Yet the tales of his legend were enough to fill multiple lifetimes – and continued to grow along with the game itself.
Ruth embodied the country that had given a poor young boy the chance to rise as high as his talents would take him.
Other ballplayers have had one or two legendary moments, but Ruth collected them by the dozen. Perhaps his most famous was the “Called Shot Home Run” from the 1932 World Series. “Historians still argue whether or not Ruth really predicted the home run just seconds before he hit it,” Shieber said. “But, even if we discovered definitive proof that his Called Shot did not happen, the story would still resonate. It would still be legendary.
“It’s the fact that Ruth’s impact goes so far beyond baseball that makes him truly exceptional.”
So far beyond baseball, in fact, that the borders of his own country could not hold Ruth’s legend.
“There are accounts of Japanese troops attacking American soldiers in World War II yelling ‘To hell with Babe Ruth!’” Shieber said. “They weren’t yelling ‘To hell with FDR!” They knew that it invoking Ruth’s name would mean something much more.”
Craig Muder is the director of communications for the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum
How Babe Ruth Changed Baseball
During the 1919 season, the Yankees were second-class citizens. They shared a field with the Giants and drew the smallest crowds out of all three New York teams. But by the time Babe Ruth passed away, 63 years ago today, they had become the marquee franchise in all of Major League Baseball.
This, in short, is why Ruth continues to cast a shadow as one of the most outsized legends in baseball history. He changed the fortunes of a team, a city and a sport.
“When he came over to the Yankees from the Red Sox in 1920, the Yankees were sharing the Polo Grounds with the Giants,” says Eric Jentsch, a curator of culture and the arts at the American History Museum. “After Ruth came and made such a dramatic change in the game with all his home runs, Yankees attendance doubled and totally surpassed the Giants, so the Giants kicked them out.”
In his first season with the Yankees, Ruth hit 54 home runs: more, on his own, than any team except for the Phillies. His unprecedented slugging ushered the game into the new live-ball era.
It’s hard to imagine, but if Ruth hadn’t come along, we might have seen the Yankees head to the West Coast, instead of moving into “The House That Ruth Built.”
“The Yankees built this beautiful, huge stadium, because they got so popular from Ruth, and then were able to create this dynasty that they’ve had,” says Jentsch.”The Yankees ended up running both the Giants and Dodgers out of town, because they were so popular.”
The Smithsonian is home to a piece of this history. In the 1970s, when the stadium was undergoing extensive renovations, workers took out an old, graffiti-marked ticket booth. In time, it would be donated to the American History Museum. Although not currently on display, Jentsch said curators plan to use the artifact in a new exhibition on American mass entertainment and pop culture that is currently under development.
Ruth’s significance went beyond the building of a stadium. At a key point in the history of baseball and American entertainment, he emerged as a superstar and established the sport as America’s pastime.
“The twenties are often called the golden age of sports, and there are a few reasons for that. After World War I, a lot of people became more interested in entertainment and leisure activities,” Jentsch says. “The other thing was a huge change in media, with radio, and with more newspapers.”
As baseball was just recovering from the 1919 Black Sox betting scandal—in which eight White Sox players were banned from the game for intentionally losing the World Series—the game needed a galvanizing star to bring back positive coverage. “Ruth managed his public persona very well. He was a really likable guy, he treated people well,” says Jentsch. “He had this magnetism, and he was a winner.”
“He was the best baseball player who ever lived,” wrote Robert W. Creamer, a former Sports Illustrated writer and Ruth biographer, in a 1995 Smithsonian article. “He was better than Ty Cobb, better than Joe DiMaggio, better than Ted Williams, better than Henry Aaron, better than Bobby Bonds. He was by far the most flamboyant. There’s never been anyone else like him.”
In the Smithsonian’s collections, there are three Babe Ruth-autographed balls. Pictured above, is one that was originally a family heirloom: when Ruth visited Scranton, Pennsylvania, sometime in the early part of the century, one Evan Jones got it signed as a gift for his son. The signed ball was donated to the museum in the 1990s.
The stories of the two other balls were told in a Smithsonian Magazine article in 2003. One was signed by both Ruth and Hank Aaron, who broke Ruth’s all-time home run record in 1974. The other was autographed by the entire 1926 New York Yankee team, a gift from a team trainer to a sick child who lived next door. That team lost the World Series in seven games, ultimately losing as Ruth was caught stealing second base in the bottom of the ninth.
In his 15 years as a Yankee, though, Ruth led the team to four World Series victories and rewrote baseball’s record books. As Red Sox fans know well, the legend all goes back to that fateful trade. At the time, selling the player for $200,000 seemed to make sense. But now, “it’s one of those famous stories,” says Jentsch. “You never can tell where the next great superstar will come from.”
About Joseph Stromberg
Joseph Stromberg was previously a digital reporter for Smithsonian.