BABE IN THE WOODS: Nine

Thursday, October 31, 2013: Sherman Park, NY, USA

Herman Ruth stood perfectly still, partially hidden behind a large oak tree three hundred yards into Leitas Pond Park, directly across from Detective Eric Pearson’s house. It was the first time he’d observed the house, but it was the first time he had company doing it.

His eyes sparkled, as if lit from within, as they moved back and forth between Pearson’s house and the other zombie watching it from the edge of the tree line. When the last light in the house had turned off ten minutes ago, he’d locked his gaze onto the zombie, waiting for its next move.

He knew that it wasn’t one of his, not via a direct line at least, and was curious about its interest in Detective Eric Pearson.

Another fifteen minutes passed before the zombie lumbered off into the park in the opposite direction, obvious from its shuffling gait that it was of inferior origin. He’d realized early on that each successive generation removed from him was noticeably weaker, anything beyond two times removed absolutely useless for anything beyond mere grunt work, and as such, his plans for revenge were taking much longer to bring to fruition than he’d originally hoped.

In the time that had passed since his reawakening nine years earlier, he’d taken his time, been selective with his conversions, and done his research. A lot had happened in the sixty-five years since his death and it was a very different world he’d found upon his return. With each passing year, though, he’d grown more comfortable with his fate, and was able to make his way in the world surprisingly well under the cover of night.

He had important business to take care of with Detective Pearson, but hadn’t been ready to take the next step until realizing someone else apparently had taken an interest in him as well. Watching the other zombie clumsily make its way through the trees into the darkness, he wondered who’d sent it, crinkling his nose in disgust, and debated whether it was time to have a talk with his long-lost relative, Eric.


George Herman Ruth, Jr. was nicknamed the Babe during spring training of his first season in the major leagues by teammates in Baltimore who saw him as one of team owner Jack Dunn’s “babes.” He’d always hated the name, especially the implication it gave that he was someone’s property, but with his instant success, word of his talent had spread so fast that he never had a chance to explain his preference for Herman.

He was more successful in explaining his past, though.

The official story was that his parents, a saloonkeeper and his wife, had sent him to St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, a strict Catholic institution for orphans and delinquents run by the Xaverian Brothers. He was seven at the time and years later would later credit a Brother Matthias with being “the father figure I needed, to teach me right from wrong.”

As with most American myths, it was true, for the most part, except for the specifics of his parentage. The man whose name he carried, George Herman Ruth, Sr., was in fact married to Herman’s mother. He was, however, not his biological father.

Though President Abraham Lincoln had signed the Emancipation Proclamation into law as of January 1, 1863, it was a wartime measure that only applied to the states in rebellion, which Maryland was not. It was nearly two years later, on November 1, 1864, before the Maryland General Assembly approved a new constitution for the state that finally made slavery illegal there.

Eric Monroe was born on October 31, 1863, in Huntingdon, Maryland, on the outskirts of Baltimore, to Horatio and Margaret Monroe, black slaves of the Lesser family, who ran a modest horse farm. Because he was born into slavery, despite it already having been declared illegal in the south and Maryland outlawing it a year later, he became what would later become known as a “term slave,” legally kept in bondage to the Lessers until his 28th birthday.

The day he received his freedom, he moved to Baltimore and eventually found work as janitor in a saloon on Camden Street, owned and operated by George Herman Ruth, Sr. and his wife Kate. He worked there for almost three years without incident, before disappearing one night in the summer of 1894, never to be heard from again.

Kate Ruth gave birth to a son in February of the following year, George Herman Ruth, Jr., whose broad, flat nose and olive complexion looked nothing like his father. If anyone put two and two together, they never said a word, but the question ate at Ruth, Sr. every day for seven years until he couldn’t take it anymore and sent the boy off to St. Mary’s.

Eric Monroe had fled north to New York City in mortal fear for his life, changing his last name to Pearson and eventually settling down in Harlem after finding steady work with the New York Central Railroad as a porter. In 1902, he married one Rita Mae Hayworth who bore him two children, Michael and Lula Mae Pearson. Sixty-eight years later, Eric Monroe Pearson would become the first of his descendants to bear his name.

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