- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 17, 2001

It had been more than 30 years since Curt Blefary had played for the Baltimore Orioles. Nonetheless, he had one wish as he lay dying earlier this year to have his ashes scattered at Memorial Stadium.

When Mr. Blefary´s widow, Lana, arrived in Baltimore last month to fulfill his request, she found Memorial Stadium in the final stages of demolition, a jumble of rubble.

Enter the staff at Baltimore´s Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum. They helped Mrs. Blefary give her late husband, who was the American League Rookie of the Year in 1961 and was an outfielder for the Orioles from 1965 to 1968, his final wish.

"Mrs. Blefary came to town not knowing the state of the stadium," says Laurie Ward, spokeswoman for the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum. "After she contacted the stadium authority, we got ahold of her and offered to let her use the home plate we had from the last season at Memorial Stadium. We went over to the stadium and put the home plate down as best as we could determine. The place looked like a war zone."

The Memorial Stadium home plate, as well as the urn holding the rest of Mr. Blefary´s ashes, are among the newest artifacts on display at the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum.

When the museum opened in 1974, it was to be a small shrine to the New York Yankees star, who was born in his grandfather´s house at 216 Emory St. The museum, located in that same house, still holds the largest collection of Ruth memorabilia, but its tributes to Baltimore sports are big attractions as well, Ms. Ward says.

The museum´s Memorial Stadium room, for instance, holds artifacts from the National Football League championship game played there on Dec. 27, 1959, and a ball from the last game of the Orioles´ 1991 season, the club´s last at the old stadium. There are old seats and signs from the stadium on 33rd Street as well as programs and score cards from such important games as the Baltimore Colts´ 1971 Super Bowl victory.

A time line on one wall traces the history of Memorial Stadium, from its construction in 1947 to 1997, when the Baltimore Ravens played the last game there.

Hanging from the rafters are jerseys from some of Baltimore´s favorite athletes, including Johnny Unitas, Brooks Robinson and Cal Ripken Jr. Mr. Ripken, meanwhile, gets his own tribute in the next room, where his 20-year career is highlighted with photos and statistics.

"The museum is also a tribute to regional baseball and the Orioles," Ms. Ward says. "Even if Cal Ripken weren´t an Oriole, we would still have a display for him because he is from Maryland."

Another tribute to more recent baseball history is a video, "Babe Ruth to Eddie Murray the 500 Home Run Club," narrated by NBC announcer Bob Costas. There also is a signed ball from the San Francisco Giants´ Barry Bonds, who became the 17th member of the 500 Home Run Club on April 17.

Meanwhile, Mr. Murray´s 500th home-run ball hit on Sept. 6, 1996 also is on display. Baltimore businessman Michael Lasky bought the ball from a spectator for $500,000, the most expensive purchase of sports memorabilia at the time. Mr. Lasky, in turn, donated the ball to the museum.

The newer entries have expanded the museum, but the Babe Ruth collection remains a big draw for visitors. The busiest days of the year, Ms. Ward says, are when the New York Yankees are playing at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

You don´t have to be a Yankees fan to take in this history of baseball, Baltimore and America by observing the artifacts of Babe Ruth´s life. There is a bedroom set up much as it would have been in February 1885, when George Herman Ruth Jr., later nicknamed Babe, was born.

There are calendars and hymnals from St. Mary´s Industrial School for Boys, the home for boys, some of them delinquents, where Ruth spent 12 years. In one hymnal, Mr. Ruth wrote "World´s worst singer; world´s best pitcher."

The collection of items from Mr. Ruth´s career begins with his signing by the then-minor league Baltimore Orioles in 1913 for $600. It includes a 1914 ticket book and Mr. Ruth´s rookie card from the same year. There also are score cards and photos chronicling his trade to the Boston Red Sox and, finally, the Yankees.

There is a wall detailing every one of Mr. Ruth´s 714 career home runs. One of the most popular items is a woolen road uniform from 1930. Visitors can see just how big the waistline was on the less-than-athletic-looking player´s pants.

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