Was Babe Ruth Adopted?


Babe Ruth being adopted and adopting children of his own is part of the mystique of probably the most famous American athlete. Babe Ruth was and is the greatest baseball player of all time. During his playing days, while cementing numbers that are still awe-inspiring, he was playing in the Golden Era of Baseball, in the biggest city in the country on the dawn of sports celebrity status.

Because of the time he played a mystique grew around him. Whether it was how many hot dogs he would down in a single sitting to how many cars he wrecked having been paid to endorse them.

One of the most enduring legends is of his tie’s with adoption, which are mostly false.

It is true the Babe spent most of his youth in St. Mary’s Industrial School in Baltimore, Maryland. It has been called a orphanage, a boarding school and a place for incorrigible boys. Babe’s father, George Herman Ruth Sr. sent him to St. Mary’s at the age of 6. His mother, Catherine Schamberger, known as Katie, was alive when Little George was taken by a police officer to St. Mary’s in 1902.

Katie and George Sr.’s marriage was a tragedy in every sense of the word. According to official records they had 6 children together. Only George and his younger sister Mamie Ruth survived to adulthood. Two of those children died of diseases untreatable in the early 1900s while two died of malnutrition, completely treatable. So why did these small children die of such treatable conditions? No one is sure.

Katie and George’s marriage would ultimately end when Katie was accused of cheating on her husband with one of his employees. The employee admitted it in court and while the Babe was being raised by Catholic priests, his mother left his life forever. The last he probably saw of his mother was at the burying of his youngest brother, William who had died in the hospital during the divorce proceedings. Babe was 11, he had buried 4 siblings by then and was again sent back to St. Mary’s.

Whether the Babe was sent to St. Mary’s because he was incorrigible or because his parents didn’t or couldn’t raise him is only speculation. He lived not far from his family, yet they almost never came and visited him. Sunday’s and holiday’s were open to family, but there is no records that his family made the trek. Most historians believe he ended up in St. Mary’s because he refused to go school and truancy laws were just being put in affect. But the fact remains, as Jane Leavy points out in her book, Babe was the oldest son of parents who kept losing children, why would they not want him close?

his father was a saloon keeper. Perhaps neither of his parents, or maybe the extended family, thought it was a good idea to raise a young boy in that environment.

Whatever the case, Babe Ruth had two parents through his youth, but he was raised by the father’s at St. Mary’s.

Babe learned the game of baseball at St. Mary’s Industrial School for boys. As a teenager he was signed to play in the Majors.

Did the Babe adopt his children?

Technically, yes. But no, not in the traditional sense.

Babe Ruth was first married to Helen Woodford when they were teenagers. No one is sure how they met or anything about their courtship. By the time Ruth was in full stardom, his wife was the woman at home whereas he was famous for all the girls on the road. They had one daughter together, Dorothy.

Because of his celebrity status their separation and divorce was kept all but silent when it occurred in the 1920s. While he was the back end of the famous Murderer’s Row, Helen took Dorothy and put her in a girls school and “married” a doctor. Just two years after probably the greatest baseball team of all time swept it’s way to a World Series, Babe’s estranged wife was tragically killed in a house fire of her doctor “husband”. Her death would lead to great embarrassment to everyone involved. The most poorly treated being the deceased.

Just months later, Babe Ruth would marry Claire Hodgson. Babe and Claire had been “living together” (in the most 21st century sense) for some time. According to Claire’s family, it was known that Babe was divorced but because he had the image of the “good Catholic boy” was unable to publicly admit it. Claire had a daughter from a previous marriage, Julia.

After the death of Helen and Babe and Claire’s marriage, Babe would officially adopt Dorothy and Julia. Claire would also adopt Dorothy.

Yes, the Babe adopted his two daughters. But not in the way adoption is traditionally viewed.

To see other athletes that have been adopted or have adopted children, look at our adoption post here.

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