Batter Up! Baseball, Baptism, Babe Ruth, and Baltimore

Home / Publications / Historical Reflections / Historical Reflections / Batter Up! Baseball, Baptism, Babe Ruth, and Baltimore

Over a year ago I was looking through The Passionist. This magazine was published by Holy Cross Province from the 1940s until the early 1960s. It has a wide mix of Passionist history. The 1944 issue mentioned that Passionist Fr. Francis Murmann had died in Baltimore and that he had baptized Babe Ruth when Ruth was a youngster at St. Mary’s Industrial School.

The baseball season kicks off for all teams but the Cubs and Mets – they already played in Japan – in the first week of April. What better way to celebrate the start of the season than to ponder where Fr. Murmann and Babe Ruth can lead us as we get ready to celebrate the Passionist Sesquicentennial in the U.S. in 2002.

First, with the help of Father Bill Murphy, C.P., the newly installed Passionist pastor at St. Joseph’s Passionist parish in Baltimore ( and an Orioles fan) I was able to confirm more information about the baptism of Babe Ruth. My request by e-mail to the Babe Ruth Museum in Baltimore to date has not been answered! While baptismal information has to always be prudently respected, it is also true that most Catholic dioceses in the United States have put their records on microfilm. We thus hold in respect and prayer the following historical information.

George Herman Ruth was born on February 7, 1895. He was baptized in the parish of St. Peter the Apostle in Baltimore. (That parish is now linked with St. Martin’s and St Jerome’s). He was baptized by Fr. Joseph O’Brien on March 1, 1895. What most Babe Ruth fans know is that as a young boy, he was a student at St. Mary’s Industrial School in 1906. It was there that he made his first communion on August 15, 1906. The record book has him listed at his first communion as a ‘convert’ because he was also baptized (again) on August 7, 1906, a week before his first communion, by Fr. Francis Murrmann, C.P. George Herman Ruth’s confirmation took place on May 9, 1907. Patrick Fogarty is listed as his godparent. Why was Ruth baptized again? What Fr. Bill Murphy suspects is that it came time for the boys at the Industrial School to make their first communion and the baptismal certificate for Ruth was not found. So to make all things acceptable to God and Canon Law young Babe Ruth was baptized again, conditionally. And the ‘convert’ notation would seem to suggest he wasn’t known as a practicing Catholic at that young age.

But that story does not leave a good historian totally satisfied. Rather, it is an opportunity to learn more about the Passionists in Baltimore. Fr. Murmann was the chaplain at St. Mary’s Industrial School. Beginning in 1901 he served in that capacity for thirty years. In fact if one looks at the Catholic Directories published in the early twentieth century, the Passionist chaplain at St. Mary’s is an officially listed assignment. However, when Cyril Marcel White wrote his 1955 Notre Dame Ph.D. “A History of St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys of the City of Baltimore 1866-1950” my recollection and quick read of the thesis while sitting on the floor in the Catholic U of America library stacks, is that he made no mention of the Passionist chaplains!

So how did the Passionists become the chaplains there? About two weeks after I was ordained in 1978 I went, believe it or not, on an archival trip to Baltimore with Brother Denis Sennett, S.A. and had the most wonderful experience with Sister Felicitas Powers, R.S.M who was then archivist for the Archdiocese of Baltimore. In 1983 she sent me two documents from the Archdiocesan archives which answer the question of Passionist-St. Mary’s relationship. Moreover they allow us to celebrate the beginnings of the Passionist Baltimore venture in the U.S.

The first document is the Passionist acceptance to work in Baltimore in 1866:

At the kind request of his Grace the most Rev. Martin J. Spalding D.D., Archbishop of Baltimore, I do thankfully accept the invitation of establishing a Monastery of our Order in the Archdiocese, and I do agree, according to the wishes of his Grace, to keep the Parish Church of St. Agnes near Catonsville, attending to the spiritual wants of both English and German Catholic population of the said parish, and moreover I do promise to be willing to oblige his Grace, whenever requested, to tenure our services in behalf of the Convent of Mount Sales

John Dominic Tarlattini, Provincial of the Passionist Fathers in the U.S. of America

February 2, 1866

The second document is also from 1866 and sets the conditions for the Passionists to build a monastery, parish, serve as chaplains at St. Mary’s Industrial School and raise money:

Supplemental Agreement between Superior of the Passionists and the Archbishop of Baltimore, September 12, 1866

The Superior, or Visitor nomine.Resmi… General of the Passionists, having hereby agreed to locate the Congregation permanently in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and besides, the obligation, already assumed by the Provincial of the Passionists, V. Rev. John Tarlattini, February 2, 1866, having promised to furnish from the Fathers, a Chaplain for Mt. St. Mary’s Industrial School, and the Xaverian Brothers, the Archbishop of Baltimore permit the said Congregation to erect a residence and novitiate, also a parochial church on any lot the said Visitor may select in the vicinity of Carrolton, and beyond that village, reserving to himself the right to fix the boundaries of said parish.

The Archbishop will permit the Fathers, to sollicit [sic] contributions, for building the said residence and Church, but it is hereby provided for, that beyond this they are not to make general collections among the people for their support, though they will have the privilege as in England to collect once a year from annual Subscribers


Ignatius Paoli, General Visitor

~~So let us pray for our favorite baseball team. Let us pray for those who are orphans or abandoned. Let us pray for the Passionist presence in Baltimore. Let us pray for the Passionists as we make our way to celebrate 150 years in the United States in 2002.~~~

Fr. Rob Carbonneau, C.P.
Historian and Director of The Passionist Historical Archives.
March 30, 2000

Please contact me at [email protected] if you have any comments.

Copyright Passionist Historical Archives 2001. All rights reserved. Permission of Archives needed for publication.