The Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York has a large area dedicated to the life of George Herman Ruth, better known to baseball fans as Babe Ruth. There are a few articles posted on the walls there about how Babe Ruth got in trouble for seeing an actress named Claire Hodgson (born Clara Mae Merritt) while he was still married to Helen Woodford Ruth. There is a newspaper clipping posted in the Babe Ruth section, at the Baseball Hall of Fame, which notes that Babe Ruth’s wife died in a home fire at the home of a dentist.
Babe Ruth was still legally married to Helen Woodford Ruth at the time of her death on Friday January 11, 1929. The couple had been estranged and living apart for three years. Babe Ruth had grown up Catholic and felt that a divorce was out of the question. When he was a boy, Babe Ruth was sent to a Catholic reform school for boys for getting in trouble a lot. Ruth’s father owned a tavern and when his father and mother divorced Babe Ruth’s father got custody of the children. Ruth’s father later got in trouble with the law for serving drinks to patrons too young to legally drink.
Babe Ruth had an extramarital relationship with Claire Hodgson. Ruth’s wife Helen found a new relationship of her own after the relationship with Hodgson was publicized in the newspapers. Helen Woodford Ruth moved in with dentist Edward Kinder in Boston. Dr. Kinder’s family was under the impression that he had married Helen Woodson Ruth in Montreal, Canada. No record was found for this marriage. Dentist Edward H. Kinder was not at home when Helen died in the fire.
Kinder graduated from Tufts Dental School in 1924. There is a birth record for Edward Henry Kinder born on October 23, 1898 in Somerville, Massachusetts to William F. and Elizabeth (McLaughlin) Kinder. William F. Kinder worked as a cigar maker at the time his son Edward Kinder was born. The U.S. Census has a record of Edward H. Kinder born in Massachusetts in October 1898 living with his parents William, age 30, and Eliza Kinder, age 30, in 1900. At that time the Kinder family was living in Ward 5, Somerville, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. Edward Kinder had two brothers living with him in 1900 as well. They were Gerald, age 8, and William, age 5. The 1920 census shows Edward H. Kinder living with his parents Elizabeth and William in Boston. His brother William also lived with them as well.
The Baltimore Sun reported that the estranged Mrs. Helen Ruth had been living with Kinder for about 18 months before Mrs. Babe Ruth burned to death in the fire at Kinder’s home. The Oakland Tribune, on January 14, 1929, said that the neighbors of Dr. Kinder said Mrs. Babe Ruth was known to them as Mrs. Kinder and that her daughter, Dorothy Ruth, had been going by the name of Dorothy Kinder. (On October 30, 1930 The Marshall Evening Chronicle had a story printed that Babe Ruth was petitioning the court to adopt Dorothy, even though she was his former wife’s child from another marriage). The Tribune also said that Dr. Kinder had been living with his parents in Boston prior to moving into the house in Watertown, Massachusetts about a year and a half before the fire.
Dr. Kinder was paged at Boston Garden on the night of the fire, according to a book called Babe: The Legend Comes to Life by Robert W. Creamer. Kinder was stunned when he reached his house on Quincy Street and saw what had happened and could barely answer questions put to him by Dr. George West, the medical examiner. The fire was found to have been caused by electrical problems by fire investigators at the time.
Dr. Kinder had a dental practice in Back Bay Boston and one in Watertown. Journalists noted that he was a very wealthy man. Kinder was also a veteran of World War I. After finishing dental school at Tufts, Kinder taught for a few years then set up a dental practice in 1926. Dr. Kinder was a family friend of Helen Woodford’s family.
On January 14, 1929 Dr. Edward H. Kinder walked into the Watertown police station with rumpled clothes, bloodshot eyes and his attorney, according to the report in the Belvidere Daily Republican. Prior to that, newspaper reports said the Kinder could not be located for several days after the fire on Friday January 11, 1929. The Watertown police questioned Kinder for four hours about his association with Mrs. Ruth and his whereabouts during her death. Two autopsies were ordered. The first autopsy results from Medical Examiner George L. West stated that Mrs. Helen Ruth died of suffocation and incineration. A second autopsy was ordered because of doubts brought up by Mrs. Helen Ruth’s family.
“I’m not content with the report that Mrs. Ruth went to sleep in the Kinder house and that everyone went out” said Thomas Woodson, brother of Helen Woodson Ruth. Thomas Woodson worked as a Boston police officer. Babe Ruth was said to have asked journalists to “Please let my wife alone” and “let her stay dead” after questions were asked of him about a possibly murder investigation by police.
The Ogden Standard Examiner out of Ogden, Utah covered the funeral of Helen Woodson Ruth on January 17, 1929. The account told of Babe Ruth’s face perspiring a lot and that he paid for the $10,000 casket for the funeral inside the house. Ruth was said to have stared at Helen’s body for a full five minutes and moaned “Oh-oh-oh-oh Helen” in front of the family of his estranged wife. A crowd of about 5,000 people was said to have gathered outside the house. After that Ruth pulled out a rosary from his pocket and tried to rise but slipped back into a kneeling posture. He was too weak to walk and was carried out of the house by his friends.
The Harrisburg Telegraph reported on January 17, 1929 that dentist Edward H. Kinder did not attend the funeral and neither did Helen’s nine year old daughter Dorothy. Forty police officers were necessary to keep the crowd back away from the funeral procession from the house to St. Augustine’s church. Helen Woodford Ruth was buried in New Calvary Cemetery in Mattapan, Massachusetts. Nothing was mentioned about Babe Ruth’s girlfriend of three years, Claire Hodgson attending or not attending the funeral of Helen Woodford Ruth. Babe Ruth married Claire Hodgson three months and six days after his wife Helen died in the fire.
On May 7, 1935, dentist Edward H. Kinder married Marie Bauer List in Manhattan, New York. No records could be located about when or where Edward H. Kinder died.