It’s been a century since the Bambino dominated our national pastime. Even casual fans can recite many of the details of Babe Ruth’s career, from the 22 years playing the sport from 1914 through 1935 to his 714 home runs, his 2,213 RBI and all the rest. There are, though, still some secrets at the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum, just a few blocks from Oriole Park at Camden Yards. For example: You can get married — or celebrate other rites of passage — there.
“It’s not a great place for a first wedding,” says Shawn Herne, the museum’s executive director. “They’re usually so big. It’s good for encore weddings, great for second or third.” Herne says they can handle a maximum of 250 people; they’ve also hosted baby showers, groom parties and birthday parties. As for events at the other end of life’s cycle? “We have memorial services, but no funerals,” Herne says.
For fans with baseball on their minds, the museum hosts a rookie Babe Ruth card that sold at auction a few weeks ago for $8 million, thought to be one of 14 to exist. The new owner told Herne that he’s lending it to the museum for at least a year. On a slightly different tack: Lego fans (and any lost supporters of the New York Yankees) will want to stop by the American Hercules gallery on the second floor for a look at a 1:360 scale model of the 1923 version of Yankee Stadium. In 1972, 13-year-old Bradley S. Merila started building from plans and photos of the stadium; it took 17 years to complete and consists of 500,000 pieces of balsa wood, jewelry beads, paper clips, staples, straws and other materials, including pieces of his sister’s wedding veil. It’s detailed to the number of seats in each row, the number of lights on each pole, and the 296-yard short porch over which Ruth hit many of his home runs.
Despite the fact that the museum mostly commemorates Ruth and his achievements, its remit extends to other Baltimore sports teams and stars. (Its collection includes some pieces from the now-closed Sports Legend Museum, formerly of Camden Yards.) That’s why you’ll see a red skating dress and the 2006 figure skating world championship gold medal won by Kimberly “Kimmie” Clair Meissner, from Towson, Maryland. Meissner is the 2006 world champion figure skater, the 2007 four continents champion, and the 2007 US national champion — and the first American and first woman to hold all three titles. Meissner wore the red dress when she won Worlds, and when she competed in the 2006 Olympics. Also on view: Lefty Grove’s glove, Shoeless Joe Jackson’s bat, Joe Flacco’s Super Bowl ring, the Orioles 1983 World Series trophy, and the Colts 1970 Super Bowl V trophy.
For those who don’t want to navigate the museum on their own, private one-hour guided tours are available for $100 for six people ($10 each additional person) at 9 and 10 a.m. and 4, 5 and 6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday and other hours when the museum is closed. Herne says, “We are happy to offer virtual tours to groups. Prices vary based on group size and medium of distribution. Our most popular virtual tours are Artifact Q&As and 1920s in Baltimore Sports.”
Herne says they’re now looking for employees, including admissions clerk and a social media assistant — and volunteers, including tour guides and docents, store clerks, party hosts, administrative support, and marketing and public relations. In exchange for volunteering, you receive a discount in the gift shop and free parking for all games. (That can save $20-50 a game!)
Other activities include parties on the back patio, road trips to New York for games with the Yankees (which may include time to see Monument Park or visit Heritage Field, site of the old Yankee Stadium) or farther afield, to Boston or Cooperstown. Herne’s checking with the membership now to gauge their interest. They may also make trips to catch games in Bowie or Aberdeen.
One thing you won’t see, at least for now, says Herne, are any comparisons to Shohei “Showtime” Ohtani, the Japanese hitting and pitching phenom who plays for the Los Angeles Angels. “We don’t have any immediate plans to feature him,” says Herne. “[But] Babe would have loved it. He was most proud of his pitching records. Ohtani has the potential to be one of the greatest since Babe. But only time will tell, after his career is complete, if his accomplishments are truly Ruthian.”
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