Babe Ruth and his getaway in Greenwood Lake And it seemed he always had time to play ball, to fish or to go boating with the kids
Babe Ruth with Mimi and Harriet Falk on the dock of the New Continental Hotel in Greenwood Lake.
By Ginny Privitar GREENWOOD LAKE — From the late 1930s until shortly before his death in 1948, Babe Ruth’s favorite getaway was Greenwood Lake, his daughter Dorothy Ruth Pirone wrote in her book, “My Dad, the Babe: Growing up with an American Hero.” Greenwood Lake was a resort area perfect for hunting, fishing and getting away for celebrities of the time. Pirone interviewed friends and acquaintances of her father from Greenwood Lake for her 1988 book. George Herman Ruth, better known as “Babe Ruth,” stayed at several establishments around the lake. For several years, he rented a cottage on the grounds of Greck’s Maplewood Inn, now Anton’s on the Lake. He befriended Teddy Greck, the 14-year-old son of the owners, and treated him like a kid brother. During the 40s, the two spent a lot of time together hunting, fishing and boating. ‘Happy-go-lucky’Pirone said the younger Greck recalled the Babe as a carefree and happy-go-lucky guy. “Once in a while, Babe would make an appearance at the schoolyard and hit a few,” Greck told Pirone. “And believe me, he could still wallop them. Back in those days, we only had one ball, if we were lucky, and Babe would come up to bat and hit the thing a mile into the lake. Then he’d drop the bat and start walking away. ‘Okay boys,’ he’d say, ‘that’s enough baseball. Let’s go for a boat ride.’” “He had a flashy $5,000 speedboat, which was really something, and he’d take us around the lake to all the different taverns. He’d have a shot in his beer and we’d have Cokes,” Greck said. Other people recalled Ruth batting a few balls and then treating the local kids to ice cream at a stand located next to the Sterling Forrest train station. The ball field was up the hill from the station. Babe frequented all of the popular watering holes around the lake, and spent time in Herb & Gertie’s (Herbert & Gertrude’s), the Old Heidelberg, Demarest’s Lodge and The New Continental, as well. First impressionsRuth stood out, not just for his fancy, hand-built mahogany boat and other toys, but for his sartorial splendor, too. The late Wilbur E. Christman, Greenwood Lake historian and former mayor, told Pirone he’d never forget the first time he saw Ruth. “I was standing on the corner in the center of town when I looked up and saw someone back this brand-new Pierce Arrow into a tree.” He recalled Ruth got out of the car and “went around to look at the big dent in the middle of the trunk, grumbled to himself, jumped back into the car and drove off. He was quite a sight with that big fur coat down to his knees.” Christman authored “Tales of Greenwood Lake,” Volumes I & II. In Volume I, he relates reminiscence by the late Mrs. Lillian Rehberger. She recalled being out on the lake in her canoe, in front of the Old Heidelberg restaurant, when Ruth emerged, got into his boat, and in an inebriated state, kept circling her canoe. He loved to drink, he loved to gamble and he loved to play. During World War II, he supported and contributed to “Thoughts from Home,” a Greenwood Lake charity that sent care packages to the troops. There’s a photo of him with the ladies of the group. In the event you do not knowA brief biography taken from Wikipedia describes his early life: “George Herman Ruth was born in Baltimore, Md. on Feb. 6, 1985, to George Sr. and Kate Ruth. Reported to be an unruly youngster, his parents shipped him off to St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, where he would stay until he was nineteen. The school was run by Catholic monks, and one of them, Brother Matthias, took a liking to George and not only became a role model, but taught him baseball, refining his pitching, fielding and hitting skills. Ruth was a natural and developed a lifelong passion for the game. In fact, he was so good, the brothers invited Jack Dunn, owner of the Baltimore Orioles to watch him. Dunn offered him a contract, and Ruth started on his career. Other Oriole players referred to him as “Jack’s newest babe.” The nickname stuck and an American icon was born.” Many are familiar with his incredible record, but not everyone knows that after his baseball career ended, he began a decade of visits to Orange County, where he vacationed in Chester and, especially, in Greenwood Lake, where he became just “one of the guys.” At the time, he was in the middle of a deteriorating second marriage. He usually came by himself; no one seemed to remember ever seeing his wife. However, her name appears with his a few times in the guest register of the New Continental Hotel. His daughter Dorothy Ruth Pirone, married by then, only joined him occasionally. The betGreenwood Lake was a place where he felt welcomed and at ease. He enjoyed summer and winter sports there. Ruth loved and excelled at golf, too. Although he didn’t play the game near Greenwood Lake—his favorite course was reputedly at the old St. Albans Country Club in Queens - local resident Gordon Livingston had bet the Babe that he couldn’t drive a golf ball across the lake. Ruth waited until the lake was frozen and won the bet when the ball bounced and rolled to the distant shore. In the winter he would often go tobogganing, too, paying local boys to tow him to the top of the run in the village. Sometimes, he would take local boys to the Long Pond Inn, to watch famous fighters, like Joe Louis and Sugar Ray Robinson, train. Although he was just a part-time resident of Greenwood Lake, Babe Ruth left many an indelible memory behind.