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Baltimore rich in baseball history
07/28/2005 9:18 PM ET
BALTIMORE -- Everyone knew about New York and even Boston, but it turns out Baltimore's all about the Babe, too.

Did you know, for example, that George Herman "Babe" Ruth was born in a row house at 216 Emory St. in Baltimore?

Did you know that he learned how to hit baseballs and broke a few windows doing so at Baltimore's St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys?

Did you know that the Orioles were the first team to sign Ruth to a professional contract?

These are just a few of the many mind-blowing facts you'll learn when you visit the two baseball-related museums within walking distance of Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

The first place to visit is the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum, which you can get to by following a trail of baseballs on the sidewalk from Camden Yards. The row house has been restored to look like it did on Babe's birthday, which was Feb. 6, 1895.

You might have to duck a bit to get in the front door, but once you're inside, there are tons of things to learn about Babe Ruth and baseball in Baltimore.

You'll learn that when Ruth was 19, Jack Dunn, the owner and manager of the Baltimore Orioles (a Boston Red Sox Minor League team at the time), saw Ruth's ability and signed him to a contract. When other players saw Ruth with Dunn, then a notorious scout, they called Ruth "Jack's newest babe," which gave him his legendary nickname.

In addition to educational exhibits about the 500 home run club, the "Curse of the Bambino," Ruth and Lou Gehrig, and Ruth's childhood, rookie year and funeral, there are plenty of artifacts.

One quote on the wall seems to sum up everything the Babe represented.

"I swing big, with everything I've got," Ruth said. "I hit big or miss big. I like to live as big as I can."

The latest addition to the museum is the same Louisville Slugger bat that Ruth borrowed from Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Feller to use as a cane in his dramatic last appearance at Yankee Stadium on June 13, 1948.

Museum director of communications Gregg Wilhelm said Feller will be on hand next week to talk about the bat, which is pictured in a huge photo of the Babe from that day in the park better known as the house he built.

The Babe Ruth Birthplace served as a monument to Ruth and a museum for all sports in Baltimore until May 14, 2005, when the Sports Legends at Camden Yards Museum opened its doors.

You can get to Sports Legends by following the sidewalk baseballs back to the old Camden train station, which opened in 1856. Like the Ruth birthplace, the building has been restored beautifully.

Unlike the Ruth birthplace, Sports Legends is a huge museum, with two floors holding everything associated with the rich history of sports in this area.

When you walk in, you're transported to a different time, with the train depot looking exactly like it did almost 150 years ago. Off the main lobby is the Gentleman's Waiting Room, a restored room with a brick fireplace that was visited three times by President Abraham Lincoln, once when he was on his way to deliver his famous Gettysburg Address.

The entrance to the museum is a simulated B&O rail car, with screens of scenery rushing by, authentic train seats and woofers underneath the floor to give the room that familiar railroad rumble.

"We feel like it really sets the mood and shows you that this museum is more than just a place to see interesting things," Wilhelm said. "It's very creative and interactive."

That spirit is alive in the screening room, where you can watch a funny six-minute film about Baltimore sports, and in the Babe Ruth room, where the relics include the actual kimono Ruth wore on a tour of Japan.

Next up is the "Nine Innings of Orioles history" exhibit, which takes you through the century-plus of the franchise, from its Minor League days, through the fire at the original Oriole Park, to Cal Ripken Jr.'s record streak of consecutive games played.

You can walk through a giant Sports Illustrated cover, see the Gold Gloves won by Mark Belanger and Brooks Robinson, and then wander through the new official Orioles Hall of Fame.

Downstairs, there's an extensive exhibit on Baltimore's substantial Negro Leagues history, as well as featured material from local Minor League and high school teams.

Also, there are plaques and marble benches, light standards and actual seats from Memorial Stadium, and a locker room for kids, where they can suit up in real big league uniforms.

Wilhelm said the museum has been doing very well since it opened and it has allowed the Ruth birthplace to return to being a Ruth-only museum, which was its original intent.

Wilhelm also said he doesn't get much grief from Orioles fans about celebrating a man who really gained fame as a rival Yankee, and, to a lesser extent, as a member of the Boston Red Sox.

"People who really know the game know that Babe Ruth is a Baltimore native and that his legend started in this city," Wilhelm said.

"Anybody who complains about it isn't really being serious."

Learn more about both museums at http://www.baberuthmuseum.com.

This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.


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