News Column

Day Trippers: The birth of the Bambino and Baltimore's baseball Taj Mahal

July 26, 2014

By Alex Jackson, The Capital, Annapolis, Md.



July 26--EDITOR'S NOTE: This is the sixth installment of The Capital's annual summer series "The Day Trippers." Stay tuned for more tales of travels to a variety of area destinations -- on the cheap.

In my never-ending fight to convince my fiancee that baseball is worth her time, I had no other choice than to bring her here.

I tried my best to only expose her to the games where the teams scored a lot of runs. But home runs, select sub-three hour games and even Derek Jeter's looks didn't grab her.

But he may.

The banners displayed outside of 216 Emory St. in Baltimore understated the baseball sanctuary we would soon enter.

It could be explained in other ways, but wise boys named Kenny, Bertram, Timmy, Tommy and Ham Porter did it best in the 1990s movie "The Sandlot": "The sultan of swat! The king of crash! The colossus of clout! The Great Bambino!"

We pushed the creaky door open. We had arrived.

It was here at the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum where George Herman "Babe" Ruth was born on Feb. 6, 1895. Nestled in a quiet west Baltimore community, the museum has been around for 30-plus years and is the consummate resource for fun facts about the greatest baseball player ever.

The museum is in a rowhouse once leased by Babe's maternal grandfather, Pius Schamberger. Pius' daughter Kate felt the home was a better place to birth baby Babe than the Ruth family grocery and saloon a few blocks away.

The museum says the "incorrigible" 7 year old was sent to St. Mary's Industrial School nearby. He rarely came home until he became the Babe we know today, the one that was incorrigible to only his opponents.

But it was here, a 20-minute drive from Severna Park, where 714 home runs and a storied career began mainly for the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees.

"I think I had more fun than you," my fiancee says, walking out the door to make our tour of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, a home run away from the Babe Ruth Museum.

On weekdays, there are four tours, running hourly from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. They last about an hour-and-a-half to two hours and take you to the ballpark's luxury boxes, press levels and on the field.

Katherine Koch is our guide and she knows her stuff.

While I enjoy batting averages and on-base percentages, Koch's got an all-ages numbers game.

In its 22nd season, Oriole Park has come a long way from when the Maryland Stadium Authority OK'd design plans in 1988 to transform the warehouse from a rat-infested mess with 983 smashed windows to its now-pristine state.

"When you have a left-handed batter and he's batting," Koch says, "he sees this building and sees a target."

Oriole Park opened in 1992 and looks as if it was built yesterday. Modeled after the game's greatest ballparks, it consistently ranks among the top-five in the game. TripAdvisor put it at number 2 earlier this year, behind only PNC Park in Pittsburgh.

Koch only stumbles once for an hour and 45 minutes, when a man asks how many seats exactly are power-washed after each game.

"I don't know," she says.

Babe never played here. But a statue of the Wali of Wallop sits outside the stadium, among monuments of retired numbers -- Cal Ripken Jr., Brooks Robinson, Eddie Murray, Frank Robinson, Jim Palmer and Jackie Robinson.

My explanation of these people-high numbers is met with silence from my significant other.

I'm losing her.

Next to the numbers is our last stop. My last chance.

For $12 each at the beginning of our visit in Charm City, we got two tickets to the Babe Ruth Museum and the Sports Legends Museum.

The Sports Legends museum is a nonprofit sports museum founded in 2005. Unlike the Babe Ruth Museum, it has something for every local sports fan.

Baltimore's indoor soccer team, the Baltimore Blast, has an exhibit. There's a shrine for former Orioles greats, a room where you can measure yourself up to athletes.

Names, faces and brief biographies of local sports heroes like Denny Neagle, a Gambrills-native who pitched for Arundel High School on his way to playing for the Atlanta Braves, among other teams.

The Naval Academy is called "America's Team" and the only mention of West Point comes with an accurate description of the Midshipmen's recent ownership of the football rivalry.

We find many teams she likes, including her alma mater, and take our time at each exhibit, even making fools of ourselves attempting to stop lacrosse shots in an interactive game.

When we arrive at the end of the museum, the last exhibit, we're a long way from Babe. She gets it. She likes museums. But I'm not sure she'll peek away from her book or phone the next time two men are on with two outs and I'm destroying my nails.

___

(c)2014 The Capital (Annapolis, Md.)

Visit The Capital (Annapolis, Md.) at www.hometownannapolis.com

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Source: Capital (Annapolis, MD)


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