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90 Years Ago a Watertown Fire Claimed a Woman’s Life, Sparked a Controversy Involving Babe Ruth

90 Years Ago a Watertown Fire Claimed a Woman’s Life, Sparked a Controversy Involving Babe Ruth
A 1915 photograph of Babe Ruth and his spouse Helen, who have been married in 1914. Helen died in a fireplace in Watertown on Jan. 11, 1929.

Ninety years in the past right now (Jan. 11, 2019), a lethal hearth claimed the lifetime of the spouse of a Watertown dentist. A short while later, the sufferer’s true id surfaced, vaulting her demise, and the city, into the nationwide highlight as a result of she was truly the spouse of one of many largest names in sports activities — then and now — Babe Ruth.

The lede paragraph of a narrative within the Jan. 17, 1929 situation of the Watertown Suncapturedthe state of affairs properly: “The demise of a lady by ‘suffocation and incineration,’ in a fireplace within the residence at 47 Quincy St., was the means via which Watertown was thrown into nationwide and worldwide highlight … .”


The demise of Helen Ruth in a fireplace in Watertown was controversial on the time, and remained in native lore till the home during which she died was torn down in 2004. Earlier than its demise, the home turned residence to residents whose names are nonetheless recognized round Watertown.

Writer Jane Leavy chronicled Helen. Ruth’s dying as a part of her 2018 guide The Massive Fella: Babe Ruth and the World He Created, and information tales from the time adopted the case instensely.

Babe Ruth met Helen Woodford in 1914 when she served him breakfast whereas she labored as a waitress at Landers’ Espresso Store in Boston, in accordance with Leavy’s guide. They have been married within the fall, and Helen would make periodic public appearances with The Babe, nevertheless it was famous by the press that she didn’t make her standard look on the World Collection in 1928.

Leavy discovered that Helen had been admitted to the Carney Hospital, then in South Boston, to be handled for a nervous breakdown. Once they launched her, docs urged her to go to a Sanatorium in Arlington the place “ladies have been handled for hysteria,” Leavy wrote, however as an alternative she went to “the six room cottage at 47 Quincy Road.”

Babe Ruth and the New York Yankees gained the 1928 World Collection, however reporters famous that his spouse, Helen, didn’t make her typical look that yr. Right here Ruth is proven in 1922.

Though Yankee (and former Pink Sox) slugger Babe Ruth and Helen maintained publicly that they have been nonetheless married, neighbors on Quincy Road knew her as Helen R. Kinder, the spouse of Dr. Edward Kinder, a Tufts-educated dentist. Kinder informed his household that they have been married in Montreal, and Helen Kinder’s identify appeared on the house’s deed and the mortgage taken out in 1927, in accordance with The Huge Fella.

Neighbors reported sometimes seeing a younger woman, who turned out to be Helen and Babe’s daughter, Dorothy. Nevertheless quickly after shifting in with Kinder, Dorothy was despatched to reside in a boarding faculty in Wellesley run by nuns.

The Hearth

Leavy described the hearth in her e-book:

“The hearth alarm was referred to as in from Hearth Field 425 at 10:04 p.m. Captain John J. Kelly of the Watertown Hearth Division fought his approach up the steps, crawling on his bands and knees via smoke and flames to discover a lady facedown on the bed room flooring. She was in her nightclothes, mendacity by the door.”

The Watertown Solar reported that Kelly reached her physique with the assistance of Driver James Devaney and Police Officer George Clinton.

Initially, information accounts stated that she died on the scene, however the Watertown Police report stated she lived for 12 hours afterward, and was delivered to a neighbors residence at 35 Quincy Road by Watertown Firefighters and Cops, in accordance with The Huge Fella.

On the time of the hearth, Edward Kinder was on the Boston Backyard for the Friday Night time Fights. He was paged on the Backyard, headed again to city. When he arrived on the neighbors residence, “he collapsed, dropping to the ground with a moan,” Leavy writes.

The preliminary explanation for the hearth, made by Watertown Hearth Chief John. W. O’Hearn, was “faulty wiring and overloading of wires,” in accordance with the Watertown Solar. In The Massive Fella, Leavy writes that the hearth began in the lounge, and was brought on by “novice wiring,” which included spliced wires being hooked up by tape and no solder. The Solar story reported that “Fuse plugs have been present in use as much as 30 amps the place they need to not have been over 10, and when a brief circuit occurred these plugs held the resistance, heating the wires and beginning a fireplace … the place the supply was present in a partition under within the room during which Mrs. Ruth was discovered.”

Watertown Hearth Chief John O’Hearn dominated that the hearth that killed Helen Ruth was unintentional, brought on by defective wiring.

The defective wires, Leavy writes, related to lights for porches on the primary and second flooring which had been added by Kinder after he moved in.

The Globe‘s Jan. 17, 1929, story on State Hearth Marshal George C. Neal’s report stated, “Probably the most believable concept, the report states, is that of overloading, as a result of a number of flooring lamps and a radio have been apparently related to this receptacle.” Neal’s report, the article stated, was based mostly on a report by Albert L. Edson, government secretary of the State Examiners of Electricians, after he had gone over a report of Ellis L. Dennis, an investigator for the board.

Helen’s Demise

Milddlesex Medical Examiner George L. Westruled that the demise was by brought on by the hearth.

The Boston Publish story the subsequent day reported the dying of the spouse of a outstanding Watertown dentist, however an nameless caller advised police of Helen’s double id, and “might have been beneath the affect of narcotics and the hearth through which she died might have been of incendiary origin,” Leavy wrote, noting that the account got here from the Hearst-owned Common Service information company.

The day of the hearth, Babe Ruth was in New York understanding at a health club in Manhattan. On Jan. 12, 1929, he acquired phrase of Helen’s dying whereas at a celebration within the Westchester house of his teammate Joe Dugan. He jumped on a practice to Boston at 1:15 a.m., in accordance with Leavy’s guide.

Reporters tried to succeed in Babe, and rumors circulated that he and Helen had divorced. Babe Ruth’s supervisor, Christy Walsh, who was in Portland, Ore., on the time, launched a press release saying that the couple was nonetheless married, Leavy wrote.

When he lastly appeared earlier than reporters, Babe Ruth spoke with “red-rimmed eyes and quivering chin,” based on a Jan. 15, 1929 Boston Globe story. He stated “Boys, I’m in a horrible repair. The shock has been a really nice one to me. Please let my spouse alone. Let her keep lifeless. That’s all I’ve acquired to say.”

In her guide, Leavy wrote that Babe Ruth had additionally penned a press release confirming that he and Helen had not been dwelling collectively for the previous three years, and through that point he seldom noticed her.


Helen’s kinfolk, who lived in Sudbury, didn’t settle for that their sister’s dying had been unintentional. A Boston Globe story on Jan. 16, 1929 learn:

“Though authorities have expressed themselves as glad that there was nothing legal concerning the dying of Mrs. Ruth, kinfolk of lifeless lady have expressed a doubt of the dying being unintentional. They’ve declined to simply accept solely the official rationalization and demanded that the investigation be extra thorough. Because of this Dist. Atty. Bushnell ordered the extra post-mortem, regardless that the physique has been embalmed.”

Helen’s brother, Thomas Woodford, a former Boston Police officer, stated, “What’s there to show the home wasn’t fired? What’s there to show that she wasn’t murdered?” in line with Leavy’s account.

Helen’s household maintained that Ruth had requested Helen for a divorce. He had been seen within the firm of showgirl Claire Hodgson, Leavy wrote, and she or he later turned his second spouse. Helen’s sister Nora advised the Common Service that Helen stated she would comply with quietly get divorce in Reno, however she needed $100,000. On the assembly Ruth informed her to go to hell, Nora recalled, in response to The Massive Fella.

Ruth, nevertheless, had been making funds to Helen. Leavy’s ebook features a letter from Ruth’s supervisor, Walsh, to The Babe, through which he references $31,000 that Ruth had given him to pay Helen.

After the hearth, Kinder was interviewed by the Watertown Police for 4 hours, in accordance with Leavy’s guide. He admitted that he and Helen had by no means been married, and in addition informed them that Babe Ruth knew the place Helen was staying and that she had initially come to work for Kinder as a housekeeper, two years earlier.

The second post-mortem was carried out by Suffolk County Medical Examiner George B. McGrath, and he additionally dominated Helen Ruth’s dying was brought on by the hearth.

District Lawyer Bushnell was quoted in a Jan. 17, 1929 Boston Globe article saying: “The case is closed so far as this workplace is worried, and, I hope, for the sake of the unlucky lady who can’t converse for herself, that it’s closed so far as anybody is worried.”

The case was additionally examined by Waltham District Courtroom Decide Michael J. Connolly, who interviewed Kinder, in addition to Watertown police and hearth officers. In a March 15, 1929 Globe story, Connolly’s determination was quoted:

“On all the proof I discover that Helen W. Ruth met dying by means of suffocation and burns between 6:30 and 11 p.m. I discover no illegal act or felony negligence on the a part of anybody contribute to her dying.”

Helen Ruth was buried on the Calvary Cemetery in Mattapan. The Woodfords handed down tales of how Helen feared Babe Ruth. The Massive Fella has an account of Nora’s daughter, Patricia Grace, who stated:

“Aunt Helen was in worry for her life as a result of Babe Ruth needed a divorce as a result of he was carrying on with ladies. In fact, we have been a Catholic household and she or he wouldn’t divorce. He was making an attempt to eliminate her. He had these hoodlums or what have you ever. These are the tales my mom informed me.”

In her will, Helen left $29,000 to her daughter, Dorothy, and $5 every to her siblings, in addition to to Ruth, in line with The Massive Fella.

The Home

After Kinder, a number of households lived in the home at 47 Quincy St. Based on Watertown resident lists, 4 households lived on the property from 1939 to 1952. In 1953, the house was bought by Michael and Bridget Moxley.

The Moxley household owned it till after the flip of the Millennium, they usually left their mark on Watertown. Michael began the Shamrock Athletic Membership. He and Bridget had 5 youngsters, two daughters and three sons.

One of many sons, Richard, joined the Marines and was despatched to Vietnam. He was killed in motion in Quang Nam Windfall on Aug. 29, 1968, whereas serving in L Firm of third Battalion of the seventh Marines. He was 21. The park subsequent to Watertown Center Faculty (previously the West Junior Excessive Faculty) now bears the identify of Personal Richard Moxley.

His brother John turned an area newspaper columnist, generally known as “the Voice of the Townies.” His items appeared within the Watertown Press, The Watertown Tab, Watertown Solar, the Watertown Information Tribune and typically Boston’s various papers, in accordance with a tribute to him within the Watertown Tab. He died in 2003.

In 2004, the home at 47 Quincy St. was bought to Dallaire-Holt Builders. Len Holt, who was one in every of consumers, stated lately, that the house was a pleasant one, however was not in nice form. They seemed for consumers, however nobody was .

Babe Ruth, proven right here in 1916, performed with the Boston Pink Sox till 1919. His sale to the New York Yankees in 1920 began what was generally known as the Curse of the Bambino, which was stated to stop the Pink Sox from profitable the World Collection.

They determined to tear down the home and switch it right into a two-family property. Earlier than they might raze the home, nevertheless, they needed to seem earlier than the Watertown Historic Fee. There, Holt recalled, the story of Babe Ruth’s spouse and the controversy over her demise surfaced once more. Individuals stated that the native lore stated that she was murdered, however Holt famous that the dying had been declared unintentional, because of the hearth. The undertaking was allowed to go forward after a demolition delay, Holt stated.

Demolition started at a time when Babe Ruth have been as soon as once more huge matter of dialogue.

“It was the Friday earlier than the Boston-New York Yankees playoff in 2004,” Holt stated.

The Purple Sox have been nonetheless making an attempt to Reverse the Curse of the Bambino which was stated to have began in when the Sox bought Ruth to the Yankees in 1920. The Curse has been cited as the rationale the Purple Sox misplaced the 1986 World Collection, notably in recreation 6 when Invoice Buckner missed a floor ball that allowed the New York Mets to attain the profitable run. The curse surfaced once more in 2003 when Boston misplaced to the Yankees within the American League Championship Collection after blowing a lead in Recreation 7.

Holt recollects getting a name from somebody he knew on the road who stated he wanted to get right down to the location.

“There have been reporters and cameras from ABC, NBC, CBS, Radio Canada, Radio Australia all on the market filming it,” Holt stated. “They have been saying, take a look at what Boston is doing to eliminate the curse.”

Holt stated he doesn’t know who “dropped a dime” to the media about the home the place Ruth’s spouse died being torn down.

A fence was erected round the home to stop individuals from happening the property, Holt stated, and somebody hung a banner on the fence saying “Reverse the Curse,” Holt recalled. Individuals have been coming and taking items of wooden as souvenirs.

Earlier than tearing down the home, Holt stated he seemed round the home. There was no proof that a hearth had occurred there, however he famous, “this was 2004, and a variety of work had been achieved since.”

The finished two household was bought in 2007.

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