One of the world's greatest baseball players had a special connection to the Maritime provinces that dated back to his childhood days
Babe Ruth, The Great Bambino, The King of Swing – whatever you call him, you know his iconic stature in the world and history of Major League Baseball. Ruth was born in Baltimore in 1895 and would eventually be named the greatest baseball player of all time by publications like Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News.
Ruth had a special relationship with Canada – it was in Toronto afterall, where he hit his first professional homerun in 1914. But his connection to the Maritime provinces began years earlier. When he was just seven-years old, Ruth’s parents sent him to St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys in Baltimore, where custody of him was given to a group of Catholic brothers – this was where he would live out his adolescent years. It was also here where he met Brother Matthias, a man from Lingan, N.S., who acted as the school’s master and assistant athletic director. Ruth would say many years later in his autobiography the brother was “the greatest man I’ve ever known.”
Matthias’ effect on Ruth’s life had a lot to do with introducing the soon-to-be baseball phenomenon to the sport. Wayne Stewart says in his book, Babe Ruth: A Biography, “Matthias, a man Ruth respected and viewed as the father figure he so desperately lacked, helped teach the game to Ruth, who was a very eager pupil.” It didn’t hurt that the Cape Bretoner stood a brawny 6’6 and weighed in at 250lbs – he was certainly the one to help Ruth sort out his priorities. No matter how successful Ruth became, he always remembered the man and the school who helped mold him into the baseball superstar he became – he gave both of them a great deal of help in return, whether it was with his time or money.
In later years when “Babe Ruth” had become a household name, Ruth made his own ventures to the East Coast where he was known to visit fishing and hunting hot spots in New Brunswick and Nova Scotia for some quality guy time with pals.
Nova Scotia’s St. Mary’s River, an area so well known for their salmon fishing they have a museum dedicated to the fish, was a popular destination for Ruth. He was also known to frequent the Miramichi Lodge in New Brunswick, where he was only a hop, skip and a jump from the Miramichi River. One trip in particular in October of 1923, other baseball greats like Hughie Jennings and Herb Pennock frequented the lodge as well.
Ruth’s dedication to Brother Matthias and his love for sporting in East Coast Canada gave him a soft spot for his favourite vacations destinations. He travelled to Halifax in August of 1942 to attend the opening of the Wanderers Grounds’ transition into a recreation centre for the Royal Canadian Navy. At the time, he was seven years retired from professional baseball. Though he wasn’t the player he had been years prior, the crowd was still excited when he began to hit at least a dozen autographed baseballs their way. One such ball can be found today at the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame.
Many celebrities have shown their face in the Maritime provinces throughout the years, but none made sports fans rejoice quite like that of the Great Bambino.