In August 1929 the Babe had not felt better in a long time, but it had been a roller-coaster year. The new year began with devastating news. On January 11, Ruth’s first wife, Helen Woodford, perished in a Watertown, Massachusetts, house fire. The Babe and Helen had been separated for about six years but as Catholics had not divorced. At the time of her death, Helen was passing as the wife of Dr. Edward Kinder, a dentist. Her true identity, revealed several days after her death, along with the suspicious nature of the fire had created a scandal. Was it a suicide? Was it murder? Stories filled newspapers in Boston and New York. Ruth held a press conference three days later. As he addressed the twenty reporters crowded into his suite at the Brunswick Hotel, the Babe sobbed. He abandoned his prepared statement and choked out, “Please let my wife alone. Let her stay dead.” He added after a pause, “That’s all I’ve got to say.” The reporters slunk away. Several days later the medical examiner ruled out foul play, and the scandal evaporated.
On April 17 Ruth married Claire Hodgson at a 5:00 a.m. ceremony at St. Gregory’s on Manhattan’s West Side. Despite the early hour the supposedly secret wedding drew six thousand fans. The Babe had met the former showgirl beauty in early 1923 when a mutual friend introduced them before a game at Griffith Stadium in Washington DC. The next day he invited her to dinner. According to Helen, the affair grew out of friendship. She was probably the first, and only, woman the Babe viewed as an equal. By the end of the season she was his confidante and lover. As Mrs. Ruth, Claire vowed to end the Babe’s self-destructive behavior. The overdrinking, the overeating, the overspending, the all-night parties, the women, they would all have to go. She gave her husband a 10:00 p.m. curfew, changed his