Posts tagged Byron Bennett

Ellicott City’s St. Paul’s Catholic Church – Where Babe Ruth Got Married

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 to the Xaverian Brothers out of desperation when he was just eight or nine years old. In 1914, Ruth left St. Mary’s to begin his professional baseball career, playing first for the International League Baltimore Orioles, before being sold to the Boston Red Sox organization. He made his major league debut in July of that year and ended the season with the International League Providence Grays.

1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth Rookie Card

While in Boston, Ruth fell in love with Helen Woodford, a waitress he had met at a local diner. Once the baseball season was over, Ruth returned to Baltimore with Woodford. Ruth asked and received permission from his father to get married. On October 14, 1914, Ruth and Woodford were married at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Ellicott City, Maryland, located about 12 miles west of downtown Baltimore.

St. Paul’s Catholic Church, Located at 3755 St. Paul Street in Ellicott City, Maryland

Ellicott City was named after brothers Andrew and John Ellicott, who founded Ellicott Mills along the banks of the Patapsco River in the 1770’s.  In the 1800’s the town grew to be a prosperous mill town, one of the largest in the state.

View of St. Paul’s Catholic Church from St. Paul Street

In 1838, the Archdiocese of Baltimore constructed St. Paul’s Church on land purchased from the Ellicott family. At the time of its construction, St. Paul’s was the only Catholic Church located in Maryland between Baltimore and Frederick. St. Paul’s is perched on a hill overlooking Main Street. A tall, grey granite steeple at the front of the building offers entry to the church on three sides. Ornamental rose windows adorn the steeple above the three separate entrances, each with a set of green painted doors.

Interior of St. Paul’s Catholic Church, Where Babe Ruth Married his First Wife Helen

Although much of the church building on the outside appears as it did at the time Ruth was married there, an addition to the front of the church expanded the area housing the altar and the tabernacle.

St. Paul’s Catholic Church Nave.

During their wedding ceremony, Babe and Helen Ruth stood just in front of the first row of pews.

Detail of a Rose Window Over One of the Front Doors of St. Paul’s Church

The couple was married in a simple ceremony by Father Thomas Dolan. The only people in attendance other than the priest and the young couple were two members of the Church, one being Father Dolan’s sister.

Side Entrance to St. Paul’s Church from the East

After the wedding, the newlyweds lived for the winter in Baltimore, above a tavern operated by Babe Ruth’s father on Conway Street, which now is center field at Oriole Park (not to be confused with a second Ruth bar (now known as the Goddess Gentlemen’s Club)).

Staircase on Which the Fictional Byron Bennett Was Sitting When He Saw Babe and Helen Ruth Exit St. Paul’s Church

In my book Deadball, A Metaphysical Baseball Novel, the protagonist, Byron Bennett, recounts an episode that happened to him when, as a boy, he paid a visit to St. Paul’s Church:

“Byron and (his dog) Miss Tree climbed up the 20 worn, granite steps – Byron counted each one – which led from the sidewalk to the church’s east entrance, and took seats on the top step. While Byron was watching a train approach the B&O Railroad station that bordered the city’s east side, the church doors burst open behind him and a young couple appeared, arm in arm, smiling and laughing.”

Doors From Babe and Helen Ruth Would Have Exited St. Paul’s Church

“The sound of a pipe organ playing Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” emanated from inside the church. The commotion startled Miss Tree and she began barking. Byron scooted to the side of the step, pulling Miss Tree along with him, and put his hands around her mouth in a failed attempt to silence her.”

Entrance to St. Paul’s Catholic Church Looking West Toward B&O Railroad Station

“Byron looked up at the couple as they passed. The groom towered over him, dwarfing his small frame. With his thick lips, wide nose, and olive complexion, the man looked like a young Babe Ruth. . . . Byron waved to the couple as they descended the steps. The groom turned around and gave him a wink. Miss Tree continued barking. In the small parking lot at the base of the church steps there appeared a Packard S-38 touring car with thick white-wall tires and an open roof. Byron watched as the happy couple slid into the back seat and the car roared out of the parking lot, disappearing as if evaporating into the air before it reached Main Street.”

West Entrance to St. Paul’s Church

“After staring for a moment in disbelief, he stood up, still confused as to what he had seen, and looked down at Miss Tree, who appeared equally confused. ‘Did you see that?’ Byron asked his attentive companion. Byron walked over to the church entrance, pulling several times on its worn, cylinder-shaped brass door handles, but they were locked. He knocked, but no one answered. Abandoning the doors facing east, Byron ran down the 20 granite steps, past the entrance to the church basement, around to the other side of the steeple, and up another 21 granite steps – he counted each one – to the doors facing west. Miss Tree followed suit, barking all the way. Byron pulled on the handles, but those doors were locked as well.”

St. Paul’s Catholic Church and Rectory

If you are a fan of the game and you find yourself in or near Ellicott City, be sure to stop by St. Paul’s Church to see where Babe Ruth got married. Although there is no guarantee that you too will encounter the Babe during your visit, you will get a sense of the man, for his legend lives large in Ellicott City, just as it does in Baltimore, Boston, and New York. And, in case you were wondering about Byron’s dog, his name is a tribute to the day Miss Tree, a stray, first showed up at Byron’s house. Byron’s parents tried without success to locate the dog’s owner and, unable to solve the mystery, named her as such and let Byron keep her. Byron, then a small boy, pronounced her name with two, not three, syllables.

Byron Bennett’s Latest Post on

Walter Johnson 1909 T-206 Card (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C.)

If you are a fan of the game and a student of the National Pastime’s grand history, be sure to check out Byron Bennett’s latest post on about Walter Johnson\’s life after baseball as a farmer in Montgomery County, Maryland.

A VFW Hall, Canarsie Caskets, And The Ebbets Field Flagpole

In August 2001 some friends and I took a day trip from Maryland to New York City to chase down historical baseball landmarks. Our stops included the former sites of Hilltop Park, the Polo Grounds, Washington Park, and Ebbets Field. While in Brooklyn, we also went in search of the Ebbets Field Flag Pole, which legend had it was located in front of a Brooklyn VFW Hall. That trip ultimately formed the basis for a chapter in my book Deadball A Metaphysical Baseball Novel in which protagonist Byron Bennett makes a solo trip to New York City in search of the same sites.

In the news recently I read that the Brooklyn Nets had acquired an Ebbets Field flagpole, which it relocated to a plaza in front of their home field at the Barclays Center. According to an article on ESPN, the flagpole was acquired by Nets owner Bruce Ratner in 2007.

On my trip in 2001, we did not know which VFW Hall in Brooklyn had the famed Ebbets Field Flagpole and, as such, spent a good portion of time driving around Brooklyn visiting as many VFW halls as we could find. Ultimately, it was just plain luck (or intervention of the baseball gods?) that led us to the flagpole. While driving south on Utica Street toward the Belt Parkway, we caught a glimpse of a flagpole in front of a one-story, red-brick building with a plastic banner hanging from the roof identifying the building  as the Canarsie Casket Company.

Ebbets Field Flagpole In Front Of the Canarsie Casket Company

The banner partially obscured another sign, carved in granite and set into the building’s brick wall which stated “Veterans of Foreign Wars.”  We knew then that we had found the famed Ebbets Field Flag Pole. Next to the sidewalk was a “Building For Sale” sign, suggesting a then-uncertain future for the Ebbets Field flagpole.

Kratter Corporation Dedication Plaque for the Ebbets Field Flagpole

At the base of the flagpole was a piece of granite with the following inscription:

Center Field Flag Pole
Ebbets Field
Donated By
Kratter Corp.

Kratter Corporation purchased Ebbets Field from the Dodgers two years before their move to Los Angeles in anticipation of developing the site once the team departed for the West Coast. Marvin Kratter, the corporation’s president, donated the flagpole to the VFW in 1960, where it stood until it was purchased by the Nets in 2007.

The Ebbets Field Flagpole

The flagpole now resides  just a short drive up Flatbush Avenue, two miles north of its former location at 55 Sullivan Place. So kudos to the Brooklyn Nets for helping insure that at least a small part of Ebbets Field remains in the borough. Also, its good to know that the flagpole no longer has the indignity of sitting in front of a building that manufactured caskets.

A Day Of Discovery, A Night At The Suns

On Saturday, August 4th I spent the day and night in Hagerstown, Maryland, as part of my continuing mission to get the word out about Deadball, A Metaphysical Baseball Novel. During the day, I had a table at the Discovery Station, an interactive children’s museum in downtown Hagerstown. Marie Byers, the mastermind behind the Hagerstown landmark, invited me to sell books at the grand opening of  the museum’s new exhibit “Take Me Out To The Ballgame . . . More Than Just A Game.”

The Mayor of Hagerstown, Surrounded By Local Luminaries,Cuts The Ribbon

Attending the event was former major leaguer and Hagerstown native Leo Burke. Burke played for several teams during his several years  in the majors, including the Baltimore Orioles, the California Angels, and the Chicago Cubs.

Calvin Stinson and Former Major Leaguer Leo Burke

Also attending from the world of baseball were two current Hagerstown Suns pitchers Brian Rauh and Ben Hawkins, both of whom commented on how early it  was to be in uniform (10 am) following the night game they played the previous evening.

Ben Hawkins, Calvin Stinson,and Brian Rauh

Hagerstown Herald-Mail reporter Alicia Notarianni covered the event and filed this story Herald-Mail Discovery Station Article (in which she generously mentions by book).

Included at the museum on the first floor is an exhibit of Hagerstown Suns memorabilia on loan from Hagerstown resident Sean Guy, which includes an autographed jersey, fielder’s glove and cleats, once belonging to Bryce Harper.

Waiting For Customers In Front Of The Discovery Station's Bryce Harper Exhibit

That evening, the Suns game was the place to be in Hagerstown as the team was giving out Bryce Harper garden gnomes to the first 1000 gfans through the gnate. The line to enter the stadium snaked its way through the parking lot at the time  the gates opened at 6:05 pm. If only they had been lining up to meet yours truly.

Suns Fans Line Up To Enter The Stadium For Bryce Harper Garden Gnome

Many thanks to the Suns fans who stopped by my table during the game to talk baseball and Deadball. Thanks also to Suns’ concessionaire extraordinaire Tyler Breeze who, after selling me one of his signature cheesy pretzels, came out to my table during his break and bought a copy of Deadball. As the game was winding down I could see him across the concourse already engaged in the first few pages of Deadball.

Hagerstown Suns' Concessionaire Tyler Breeze Filling The Time Between Customers By Reading His Just-Purchased Copy Of Deadball

Tyler – I hope you enjoyed the story of Byron Bennett.

Tiger Stadium 1999

A good portion of the book Deadball takes place in Detroit during Byron Bennett’s pilgrimage to the motor city for the Tiger’s final season at the Corner of Michigan and Trumbull.

Tiger Stadium Detroit, August 1999

In Deadball, Byron visits Tiger Stadium in May 1999 for a three-game series against the visiting Baltimore Orioles.

Entrance to Tiger Stadium, Detroit, Gate 1, at the Corner of Michigan and Trumbull

The trip I took to Detroit that season was later in the summer, during the Orioles’ final road visit to Tiger Stadium.

Orioles Pitchers from left Jason Johnson (41), B.J. Ryan (52), Mike Timlin (40), Al Reyes, Jesse Orosco (47), Sidney Ponson, and Doug Johns










My trip to Detroit was taken long before I came up with the story line for Deadball, although much of the atmosphere of Tiger Stadium described in the book came from that visit.

View of Tiger Stadium, Detroit, from section 144 August 1999

I recall being disappointed and amazed on that trip that the City of Detroit would allow such an incredible historical time piece to slip away, just as Baltimore was in the process of doing with Memorial Stadium.

View of Right Field Porch, Tiger Stadium, Detroit

The view of the field, obstructed by iron support columns, helped give Tiger Stadium character that has been stripped from today’s modern ballparks.

View of the right field corner seating from the upper deck cat walk, Tiger Stadium, Detroit

The Corner of Michigan and Trumbull remains hallowed ground, even though Tiger Stadium is now long gone.  As Byron Bennett would have observed, it is now just another lost ballpark.

View of the Corner of Michigan and Trumbull, and Downtown Detroit, from Top of Tiger Stadium


New Cathedral Cemetery and the Four Hall of Fame Baltimore Orioles

Less than five miles west of Orioles Park at Camden Yards on Route 40 is New Cathedral Cemetery.  The cemetery holds the distinction of being the final resting place of four Baseball Hall of Famers.   In Chapter 20 of  Deadball, Byron Bennett visits New Cathedral in search of the ghosts of the former players, all of which were once members of the 1890’s world champion National League Baltimore Orioles.

Entrance to New Cathedral Cemetery, Baltimore

As you enter the cemetery, there is to the left a white, clapboard building that houses the cemetery’s office.  Available inside is a 8″ by 14″ handout entitled “Baseball Hall of Famers” which includes a map of the cemetery. The map’s legend includes symbols identifying the final resting place of each Hall of Famer.

McGraw - Van Lill Mausoleum

McGraw – Van Lill Mausoleum

The final resting place of former Orioles’ third-baseman John McGraw “ is located in Lot 197, Section L.”

Entrance to McGraw - Lill Mausoleum

Entrance to McGraw – Lill Mausoleum

McGraw is entombed in a stately granite mausoleum with an oxidized, green copper roof.  “J.J. McGraw” is carved into the granite above the front door along with “S. J. Van Lill, Jr.,” whose family shares the space with McGraw and his wife, Blanche. Mrs. S. J. Lill and Mrs. McGraw were sisters.

John McGraw Inscription Above Mausoleum Door, New Cathedral Cemetery

Just over the hill behind McGraw’s mausoleum is the grave site of Joe Kelley, former right fielder for the Orioles.  A set of marble stairs at the base of a small hill leads to Kelly’s grave.

Stairway Leading To Internment Site of Joe Kelly, New Cathedral Cemetery

Kelley is  buried alongside his wife and son.

Joseph J. Kelly, Hall of Fame Baltimore Oriole, New Cathedral Cemetery

Ned Hanlon, the Orioles’ former manager, is interred just a short walking distance from Kelly’s grave.

Ned Hanlon Family Plot, New Cathedral Cemetery

Hanlon’s wife is buried alongside Foxy Ned.

Edward Hanlon, Hall of Fame Baltimore Oriole, New Cathedral Cemetery

A matching block of granite honors the memory of Hanlon’s son: “Joseph Thomas Hanlon, Born March 3, 1893, Died July 31, 1918, Killed In Action, Buried At Thiaucourt, France.”

Joseph Hanlon, son of Ned Hanlon, New Cathedral Cemetery

The grave site of Wilbert Robinson, former Orioles catcher, and his wife, is situated in the northeast section on the opposite side of the cemetery.

Wilbert Robinson Family Plot, New Cathedral Cemetery

A large chunk of black granite is missing from the corner of Robinson’s headstone.

Wilbert Robinson, Hall of Fame Baltimore Oriole, New Cathedral Cemetery

New Cathedral Cemetery is just one of the many examples of Baltimore’s rich baseball history.  Given its close proximity to Camden Yards, the cemetery certainly is worth a stop for any true Orioles fan.

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