“The only real game, I think, in the world is baseball.” So said Babe Ruth. Agree with him or not, I have no doubt that the grand-daddy of home runs is up in the baseball heavens, prepping himself to bid farewell to his iconic home.
Uh-huh. Yankee Stadium is going down and the ensuing countdown – considering the All-Star break typically marks the mid-point of the season – inevitably brings up times of reflection and moments to remember. While Yankee fans and baseball fans in general might mourn the destruction of the House That Ruth Built, they can take comfort in knowing that just because his stadium is getting bulldozed, the Sultan of Swat isn’t going anywhere – he’ll always be in our hearts.
And rightfully so. He’s earned his place in history. Cool thing is, we’ve got a magnificent selection of the life and times of Ruth – a slice of his majesty can be had and fortunately for us, it is right here in our very own backyard.
It is, of course, the Babe Ruth Museum. It’s located at 216 Emory Street, the birth place of the great one. There’s a boat-load (actually, four row homes full) of memories immortalized right here for us to cherish. It is “just a long fly ball from Oriole Park at Camden Yards.”
This unassuming row home is where it all started. February 6, 1895 George Herman “Babe” Ruth was born. The actual room of his birth has been enshrined and it is a treasure waiting to be seen. If you are a baseball fan, and have not checked it out, perhaps it is time you did. The four-row homes that make up the museum take us beyond the life of a player. The only known photo of him and his mother rest here. We get an inside peek at his life with his daughters, with his wife Claire and his friends. Hand-written letters, pictures, jerseys, bats. Photos with children and legends like Gehrig. The memorabilia is for the fanatic and it is truly fantastic. It’s an unprecedented collection, and I’m going out on a limb here, one that is under-appreciated – at least where I am concerned. I’ve lived in Baltimore 15 years now, a baseball lover to the core, and JUST made my first trip there recently. I’ll need at least a few more trips to be able to digest this collection.
This museum doesn’t skip over much either, Ruth’s life wasn’t always strawberries and cream. After being deemed “incorrigible” he was sent off to St. Mary’s Industrial School for boys, disconnecting him from his parents. That couldn’t have been easy. But he found an outlet in baseball- was a star for St. Mary’s. And eventually found a mentor in Jack Dunn, who was the owner and manager of the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles were a part of the minor league system of the Boston Red Sox at that point in time.
His first major league team was the Sox, he was a pitcher as well as an outfielder. He was just 19 years old. Ruth still holds a major league record from his Red Sox days where he pitched a solid 14-inning pearl for the longest complete game in the history of the World Series. It was a 2-1 victory. And as Cal’s longest consecutive playing streak will never be broken, this record will also stand the test of time.
Things got turbulent for Ruth and the Sox and after six years he was traded. In what turned out to be the Louisiana Purchase of Baseball, Ruth was a steal for the New York Yankees for $125,000 (and a loan against Fenway Park for $350,000.) I always thought it was for a hundred grand but the Yankees and Boston web sites disagreed.
Boston’s owner at the time of the trade had this to say: “No other club could afford to give me the amount the Yankees have paid for him, and I don’t mind saying I think they are taking a gamble.” (from the Boston Globe, January 6, 1920 edition.)
What a dumb ass!
Obviously, Ruth proved him wrong. And when Ruth was finally in his home – Yankee Stadium – he cultivated his swagger and his swing all the while building the foundation for that dynasty. (I’m loathe to say it, but facts are facts) And the Babe Ruth Museum is all right there for the taking, it’s baseball history like you’ve never seen before.
Monday the homerun derby is taking place at Yankee Stadium. Tuesday is the All-Star game. It will be the last time for the House that Ruth Built hosts this event. So enjoy!
By the way, although I am a lover of almost all sports- I have to agree: “The only real game, I think, in the world is baseball.”