- The Washington Times - Saturday, January 14, 2006

Boog and the Babe. Lacrosse and Unitas. The Terps and Cal Ripken.

These are some of the stars of the Sports Legends at Camden Yards, a museum that will entertain almost everyone who stops by — from old-timers who will get a kick out of remembering the tomato garden Orioles manager Earl Weaver planted in left field at old Memorial Stadium on 33rd Street, to school-age children trying on a Ravens uniform in the basement locker room.

When the 22,000-square-foot Sports Legends museum opened in May, it finally provided a spot to house all that is Maryland sports history. With more than 10,000 items organized into two floors of displays, the quirkiness is honored — Duckpin bowling anyone? Colts band uniforms through the years? — as well as the truly exciting, such as Cal Ripken’s consecutive-games streak and the Ravens’ Super Bowl victory.

“If you are from this area, you’ve got to love it,” says Jerry Markey, a museum guide and longtime Baltimore sports fan. “We’ve got all of Johnny Unitas’ trophies. He gave them to us six weeks before he died.”

Mr. Markey proudly points out a few other items of interest: The Orioles’ 1983 World Series trophy; artifacts from the 1944 fire that burned down the first Oriole Park; and legendary sports columnist John Steadman’s typewriter.

Babe Ruth, born in Baltimore, has his own large exhibit here, as well as another one at the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum a few blocks away. All these decades later, the legend of Babe Ruth endures, and the artifacts show how the Babe was larger-than-life. His $1,500 contract for playing himself in the 1941 movie “The Pride of the Yankees” is here, as well as ads starring the Babe, items from his trips to Japan, and, of course, baseball memorabilia.

Visitor Stephanie DiGennaro of Baltimore paused at the exhibit replicating one of the worst days in Maryland sports history — when Colts owner Robert Irsay sneaked the team out of town one winter night in 1984. The exhibit re-creates the back of a Mayflower moving van. News broadcasts from that night are piped in.

“I still hate Bob Irsay,” Ms. DiGennaro says. “He took our team.”

Still, the museum brings back lots of wonderful memories as well, she says.

“I think it’s great,” Ms. Di Gennaro says. “My favorite Baltimore sports memory is the World Series in 1983. We met Cal [Ripken] and Eddie [Murray] at a bar one night in Cockeysville. We got their autographs.”

The Kids Discovery Room set up in the basement is an excellent place for visitors still making their own memories. The room is set up like a locker room, and children can try on various sports uniforms hanging in the lockers. They can watch videos chronicling the history of Baltimore baseball, as well as check their batting stance in a mirror. There is a broadcast booth where they can listen to television and radio announcers make the call on a play, then try their skill at doing the same. Soccer enthusiasts can kick a holographic ball on a field in front of the Baltimore Blast indoor soccer display.

School groups can arrange educational programs relating to sports. Some of the topics: designing a sports jersey, teamwork and how stats tell the story.

“We did one a couple of weeks ago using a lot of math,” says museum educator David Devaney. “We had questions such as ‘If someone completed 20 of 25 passes, what was his completion percentage?’ Not every kid is an athlete, but questions like that get them to think.”

The museum will hold special events in February to honor Babe Ruth on what would have been his 111th birthday. An evening bash on Feb. 3 will feature Maryland announcer Johnny Holliday, special athlete guests and ballpark food. Tickets are $35 ($30 for members and $40 at the door).

On Feb. 6 at noon, the museum and guests will pause for cake and to sing happy birthday to the Babe.

The Sports Legends museum is housed in Camden Station, a building with a rich history of its own. The 1856 building was a passenger terminal for the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad and was once the city’s tallest building. The first blood of the Civil War was shed outside the north side of the station on Pratt Street. President Abraham Lincoln passed through the station on his way to Gettysburg to deliver his famous address.

Train travel is honored as part of the museum, too, as visitors enter the museum through a re-created 1940s passenger car.

When you go:

Location: The Sports Legends at Camden Yards is located at 301 W. Camden St. in Baltimore.

Directions: From the Beltway, take Interstate 95 north to Exit 53 (Interstate 395) or Exit 52 (Russell Street). Follow signs for Camden Yards and the museum.

Parking: Metered street and garage parking are available nearby.

Hours: The museum is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily April through October (until 7:30 p.m. on game days). From November through March, it is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday (until 8 p.m. on football game days). It is closed New Year’s, Thanksgiving and Christmas days.

Admission: Adults, $10; seniors, $8; children ages 3 to 12, $6.50. Children younger than 3 are admitted free.

More information: 410/727-1539 or www.sportslegendsatcamdenyards.com.

Notes: • Sports Legends at Camden Yards, located in historic Camden Station, takes some 10,000 artifacts from Baltimore sports history and houses them in one entertaining place. There are important items from the area’s sports history here, such as the 1983 Orioles’ World Series trophy and a host of items from football great Johnny Unitas. The Negro Leagues, minor league baseball and the Maryland State Athletic Hall of Fame also have large displays. There is a interactive portion where younger visitors can try on uniforms and check their skill as broadcasters.

• The museum features a large gift shop with many Baltimore sports items for sale.

• The museum offers field trips for school groups that merge education with athletics.

• The museum is affiliated with the nearby Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum, which houses more items relating to the baseball great. Visitors interested in touring both can get a discount on tickets.

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