- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 3, 2004

BALTIMORE — If Yankee Stadium, baseball’s grand arena and center stage, is “the house that Ruth built,” then a little row house at 216 Emory St. here, on the corner of two narrow cobblestone alleyways in a pocket of Baltimore formerly known as “Pigtown,” is the house that built Ruth.

That’s Babe Ruth, of course: Babe Ruth, the New York Yankee, perhaps the greatest Yankee of them all, whose larger-than-life exploits helped put the roar in the Roaring ‘20s.

In New York in 1923, they built the largest ballpark ever to accommodate the crowds that came to see him play. In Baltimore, they made a shrine of the Emory Street house where he was born — and three blocks away, in front of Camden Yards where the Yankees’ American League rival Orioles play, they put up a bronze statue of the Babe with a plaque that reads “Babe Ruth, Baltimorean.”

Tomorrow, Baltimore and the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum will celebrate the 109th anniversary of the Babe’s birth with the 10th annual Babe’s Birthday Bash, at Bambino’s Pub in a warehouse building by Camden Yards.

“A lot of people don’t know Babe is from Baltimore,” says Michael Gibbons, executive director of the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum. “But he was born here and is a product of his Baltimore roots. His blue-collar, working-class background is apparent throughout his life and is his credential. His casual, cocky, flip but not arrogant manner personifies Baltimore.”

• • •

The Babe was born George Herman Ruth Jr. on Feb. 6, 1895, in the home of his mother’s parents on Emory Street, now known as the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum.

Originally called “The Babe Ruth Shrine,” the museum officially opened in 1974 a few years after a citizens group saved the building from being demolished as part of an urban renewal project in Pigtown — a neighborhood so-called because, according to legend, Baltimore’s pig farmers ran their hogs through its streets on the way to the slaughterhouse.

Early visitors to the shrine were able to see Ruth’s clothing, a grooming kit, and baseball bats donated to the museum by Babe’s wife, Claire, and sister, Mamie. The walls were decorated with photographs of Ruth and family members, many of which are still on display in the museum.

These days, the museum contains ever-changing displays and exhibits using Ruth artifacts donated or on loan from baseball memorabilia collectors, plus newspaper clippings, photographs and vintage video clips that chronicle Ruth’s remarkable life.

The three-story row house was originally a four-family dwelling. The walls that once separated each unit were removed to create the current museum setting.

On the first floor, a living room has been decorated with period furniture to replicate what the space might have looked like when Ruth’s maternal family lived here. A partition at the room also contains a timeline with a synopsis of life in Baltimore at the time of the Babe’s birth. There is also a display case holding artifacts unearthed from the site of a saloon owned by Ruth’s father that is now where Oriole Park at Camden Yards stands.

While standing in front of the living room, visitors can also view a documentary about Ruth from the television program “Biography,” narrated by Mike Wallace. Adjacent to the front room is the museum’s gift shop and main lobby, containing exhibits and display cases, with items such as one of the Babe’s Yankee uniforms as well as photographs of his grave site in New York’s Westchester County and items left there by adoring fans. Another case commemorates the career of the Babe’s teammate Lou Gehrig, a display established last June 19 to mark the 100th anniversary of his birth.

On the second floor, the bedroom that Babe was born in is recreated with antique furniture. Another display explains events in Baltimore at the time of Babe’s birth and provides details of both sides of his family history. Another second floor room is devoted to the time Babe spent in Baltimore and contains a set of 1914 Baltimore Orioles baseball cards from his first year as a pro.

Story Continues →