Brother Matthias Taught Ruth the Swing That Launched 714 Home Runs

By Glen Sparks

Babe Ruth left St. Mary's and became a legend.

Babe Ruth left St. Mary’s and became a legend.

George Herman Ruth Jr., being incorrigible and not yet the “Babe”, spent much of his youth at the St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys in Baltimore. George Sr. couldn’t keep Junior out of trouble.

The future home run king, born in 1895, learned important life skills at St. Mary’s, such as ironing and how to sew buttons onto a shirt. Baseball fans, especially those partial to the Yankees, want to know who taught young Ruth how to hit. We can thank a burly Xaverian for that.

Brother Matthias Boutlier stood 6-feet-6, weighed 300 pounds and didn’t take any guff, not from George Jr. or any other boy. “He talked, and the toughest kids listened,” writes Leigh Montville in his splendid biography, “The Big Bam: The Life and Times of Babe Ruth,” published in 2006. (Being larger than life, Ruth needed more than one nickname. Some were profane.) More importantly, Montville writes, “He hit a baseball, and their jaws dropped.”

Big league hitters back then swung down on the ball. They wanted to keep the ball inside the park and use their speed. The great Ty Cobb hit .350 but only five home runs in 1907 when young Ruth was 12. The Boston Doves’ Dave Brain led the majors in home runs that season with 10.

Brother Matthias didn’t copy the pros. He belted long, high, majestic flyballs on the St. Mary’s ball field. Mathias grabbed fungo bats and swung upward with a sharp arc. He couldn’t have hit a groundball if he had tried. George Ruth simply followed the Brother’s example. He played almost every day at St. Mary’s, perfecting the greatest swing in history and signing his first pro contract in 1914.

Ruth changed the game. On this date in 1919, the Sultan of Swat (another nickname) hit his 28th home run of the campaign, breaking the single-season mark set by Ned Williamson of the Chicago White Stockings. Ruth belted 714 home runs in his career. Brother Matthias taught the Babe well.


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