Get unlimited digital access to baltimoresun.com. $0.99 for 4 weeks.
News Opinion Readers Respond

Babe Ruth, Elkton and the Battle of Waterloo

A recent article about the declining marriage business in Elkton suggested there was an "unconfirmed" report that Babe Ruth had been married there ("Wedding chapel and amenities for sale in Elkton," Dec. 28).

Such reports are not only unconfirmed, they are completely untrue — despite the claims of several publications, including the Cecil County government tourism Web site.

At the age of 19, after his first season in professional baseball, George Herman "Babe" Ruth Jr. married Helen Woodford, a waitress whom he met in Boston. The wedding took place on October 17, 1914, at Saint Paul's Roman Catholic Church in Ellicott City.

Although they later became estranged and lived apart for several years, the couple remained married until Helen's tragic death in a fire in 1929.

Three months later, Ruth married Claire Hodgson, on April 17, 1929, at Saint Gregory the Great Roman Catholic Church in New York. He was still married to Claire when he died in 1948. There were no other marriages, precluding the possibility of any alleged Ruth nuptials in Elkton.

So what is the source of this "unconfirmed report?" It probably came from the Babe himself, who was notoriously inaccurate when discussing his past.

Legendary sports writer Grantland Rice wrote that he once interviewed Ruth on his radio show. Unwilling to leave anything to chance, Rice provided his guest with scripted answers to every question he planned to ask.

Still, in answer to one of the questions, Ruth replied: "As Duke Ellington once said, the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Elkton."

The Babe obviously had misread the script, which referred to the "Duke of Wellington" and the "playing fields of Eton."

After the show, Rice asked Ruth how he could possibly louse up the statement so completely. To which the Babe replied: "About that Wellington guy, I wouldn't know. Ellington, yes. As for that Eton business — well, I married my first wife in Elkton, and I always hated the (expletive deleted) place! It musta stuck."

Well, the joke was on Babe. A marriage certificate confirms that he was married in Ellicott City, not Elkton. Yet as far as I can determine, Ruth's opinion of Elkton never made it to the Cecil County tourist board.

For tourists vainly searching for Babe Ruth's wedding site in Elkton, I suggest instead a trip to Elkton's playing fields — which had such a big influence on the outcome of the battle at Waterloo.

Fred Shoken, Baltimore

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
Related Content
  • Hogan is Maryland's Scott Walker
    Hogan is Maryland's Scott Walker

    I am in total agreement with letter writer Jeff Tarleton ("Hogan's game of divide and conquer," Feb. 26) that Gov. Larry Hogan's only purpose in proposing tax breaks on military pensions was an effort to divide a normally cohesive bloc of voters. I will go one further. The whole proposal by...

  • Confronting terrorism requires force
    Confronting terrorism requires force

    Regarding Barbara Risacher's recent letter on the war on terror, the least attractive option is to fail to respond forcibly to terror — a view the writer apparently favors ("New thinking in war on terror," Feb. 26).

  • Fracking's public health hazards
    Fracking's public health hazards

    Recently I heard a West Virginia resident describe how fracking had changed her community. She had many photographs that were even more graphic than her verbal descriptions.

  • Pick up the pace of Md.'s absurdly low speed limits
    Pick up the pace of Md.'s absurdly low speed limits

    I was glad to read that Maryland is considering raising it's absurdly low speed limits ("Maryland Senate votes to raise maximum speed limit to 70 mph," Feb. 19)

  • War on heroin starts with teens
    War on heroin starts with teens

    Gov. Larry Hogan's focus on addressing the heroin epidemic ("Hogan creates two panels for fight against heroin," Feb. 25) is a testimony that the scourge of heroin and other substance addictions has garnered bipartisan concern. The next public policy strategy should translate this realization...

  • Online travel agency taxes needn't be so confusing
    Online travel agency taxes needn't be so confusing

    Much has been written about proposed legislation regarding how hotel taxes should be calculated for bookings through online travel agencies ("A room with a tax," Feb. 18).

Comments
Loading