First Lady of Baseball, Claire Merritt Ruth, Honored at Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum
New illustration captures spirit of Babe Ruth's wife and wedding dress
By: Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum
"We have given Claire the title "First Lady of Baseball" – for it was Claire who offered the familial stability and structure Babe Ruth would never know as a child growing up in Baltimore," says Shawn Herne, Executive Director of the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum (BRBM). "Married to the most famous baseball player of all time, her devotion to Ruth, and the fact that she was largely responsible for perpetrating his legacy long after his death and how he is viewed today is, in part, due to the efforts of Claire Ruth. She is richly deserving of this moniker."
In December, 2017, through the generosity of Ruth family members, Julia Ruth Stevens, Claire's daughter, who was adopted by Babe, and Tom Stevens, Julia's son, the museum debuted a new exhibit featuring the Sally Milgrim designer dress worn on their wedding day. They married quietly at around 6AM, Opening Day, April 29, 1929 at Saint Gregory the Great Roman Catholic Church in New York City. This beaded day dress of fine purple crepe, worn by Claire, is now on permanent loan to the museum from the family.
In honor of that donation, the museum worked with artist and illustrator, Serena Martin, of Serena Martin Design, to develop a unique piece of art to accompany the exhibit – capturing not only the original essence of the dress (which, in later years, Claire Ruth modified), but the spirit of Claire Merritt Ruth, once an actress and model, turned 'wife of,' and lifelong support to, an American baseball legend.
"I thoroughly enjoyed working with the Babe Ruth Museum to capture Claire Ruth's wedding dress, and her spirit, in a watercolor illustration,"
"On behalf of House of Milgrim and the Milgrim family, we are honored the Babe Ruth Museum is highlighting Claire Ruth's aubergine wedding dress for its significance in American pop-culture,"
Michael Gibbons, Director Emeritus and Historian of the Babe Ruth Museum says "This highly personal piece from the life of Babe Ruth, worn by the woman who would give him the kind of family he did not have as a child, is certainly an unusual addition to our other exhibits. We also know that fashion is a litmus about status and personal taste and puts us into the context of an entire era."
Visitors to the museum can take home a printed piece of artwork, depicted on a blank greeting card, suitable for framing, which not only captures the historic sensibility of the dress on exhibit, but the story behind the wedding in 1929. The illustrated card sells for $3.99.
This would be the second marriage for both Ruth and Merritt, after their spouses had died. The streets were lined with paparazzi, reporters and small boys clamoring for a look at the Sultan of Swat and his new bride, the First Lady of baseball, Claire Merritt Hodgson Ruth. The woman in the purple dress would prove not only to be a great love, and a compass toward the future, but the anchor very much needed by baseball's most celebrated player.
Located at 216 Emory Place, Baltimore, MD, the museum is open Tuesday thru Sunday 10:00am to 5:00pm. Admission to the museum is $10.00 for adults; $8.00 for seniors/military;$