The Babe and Brother Matthias
Matthias was the greatest man I’ve ever known.”
baseball by C. Philip Francis
Herman “Babe” Ruth was born on February 6, 1895 in Baltimore, Maryland, and
died on August 16, 1948. Although
many of his celebrated records have been broken, what he gave to and did for the
game of baseball will forever be remembered.
Each August Chatter from the Dugout recalls a particular aspect of
Ruth’s life, and this year we will introduce the reader to a man that had a
tremendous influence on the life of Babe Ruth.
Ruth was called “incorrigible and vicious” by his mother and father who sent
their boy to the St. Mary’s Industrial School in Baltimore on June 13, 1902 at
the age of seven. The young boy
lived there for the next 12 years, and when he finally walked out through the
front gate Babe had already signed a professional baseball contract, and in
several months would be playing major league baseball.
What changed an uneducated and untamed boy into the most famous and
visible sports figure of all time was 6’6” and 250-pound Brother Matthias of
the Order of St. Francis Xavier.
school was located a few miles outside of downtown Baltimore with six buildings
on several acres that included two baseball fields. The 800 boys, or inmates as they called themselves, received
little corporal punishment although poor behavior might result in the
withholding of privileges. The
children were kept busy as the Brothers believed “idleness breeds trouble”,
and one of the harshest punishments given could be keeping a boy off the
one knew it at the time, but Ruth’s life would take a turn for the best when
he met a huge man by the name of Brother Matthias, an assistant to Brother
Herman who was the director of athletics at St. Mary’s. Brother Matthias was believed to be Martin Boutlier who was
born in 1872 in Lingan, Cape Breton, a small mining town in Nova Scotia.
“A game of bat and ball” had been played in the Cape Breton area
since 1838, and so Boutlier was able to pass his baseball skills on to little
George. Martin Boutlier joined the
Catholic faith, and moved to the United States where he became Brother Matthias.
his ample size Brother Matthias was a “force to be reckoned with”, and was
said that his “commanding presence was enough to quell schoolyard mutinies
without saying a word.” Brother
Matthias eventually became teacher, coach, and confidant to the crude and
immature George Ruth. In his
autobiography Ruth said of the Brother, “It was at St. Mary’s that I met and
learned to love the greatest man I’ve ever known…He was the father I needed.
He taught me to read and write, and the difference between right and
boys could select a trade, and George chose sewing shirts.
They were given a small stipend that Ruth used on candy that he gave to
the younger boys. George could easily have been a good craftsman, but his
abilities and interest was on the baseball field.
Mary’s had intramural teams that were named after the major league teams.
George was a catcher on the “Red Sox”, and there are two stories as
to how the he became a pitcher. One
was that the regular pitcher lost his privileges, and George was asked to take
over the mound. The other, and the
most interesting, was when an unhappy St. Mary’s hurler could not get anybody
out, Ruth stood by laughing and teasing his teammate.
Finally, Brother Matthias finally said, “If you can do any better, then
get out there and throw the ball yourself.”
George Herman did, and a future major league pitcher was born.
Brothers also had nearby boys’ college named Mount St. Joseph’s where the
boys were considered high class snooties while those at St. Mary’s were
thought of as rowdy ruffians. Needless
to say there was a lot of competition between the two schools.
Mount St. Joseph’s had a fine pitcher named Bill Morrisette who later
played in 13 major league games with the Philadelphia A’s and Detroit Tigers.
a special contest during commencement ceremonies the college set up a game that
would feature Morrisette and Ruth pitching for the two rival teams.
Ten days before the big game George ran away.
He was soon found, but could not play ball for the next five days.
Finally, Brother Matthias reminded George that his punishment was over,
the game was in two days, and he had better start practicing.
The precise game information was never reported, but it is known that
George Herman threw a shutout, struck out at least 14, and won the game by at
least six runs.
February of 1914 George was ready to leave St. Mary’s Industrial School for
Boys, and had been transformed from an “urchin of the docks” into a
responsible young man. He had
signed a contract with the Baltimore Orioles (minor league) for one hundred
dollars a month, considerable more than his candy money.
After the boys learned that George would soon be leaving it was said,
“There goes our ball club.” The
day George was leaving they had the worst winter storm in 25 years as a foot of
snow fell and winds took off some of the roofs and a steeple. Nothing could keep George Ruth from getting on that train
that also included Bill Morriselle. On
July 11, 1914, only five months later, Babe Ruth would be pitching for the
Boston Red Sox and winning his first big league game 4-3 over Cleveland.
little rough juvenile delinquent that became one of the best players in the
history of baseball never forget Brother Matthias nor the boys back at the
school. Brother Matthias always
received a new Cadillac automobile each year, and Ruth often returned to his
alma mater to play ball with the boys. Babe
Ruth always had time for the children.