The Great Bambino. The Sultan of Swat. The Colossus of Clout. You likely know Babe Ruth for his career with the New York Yankees or his “Curse of the Bambino” on the Boston Red Sox, but did you know Ruth started life in Baltimore, Maryland?
George Herman “Babe” Ruth was born in 1895 in his grandparents’ Baltimore rowhouse, just a few blocks from what is now Camden Yards.
Ruth was apparently a difficult child, and when he was seven he was shipped off to the Baltimore-based St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys to learn shirtmaking. It was at this boarding school where Ruth learned to play baseball and was ultimately signed to the Baltimore Orioles minor league. You probably know the rest of the story.
In 1974, the rowhouse where Ruth had been born was converted to a museum dedicated to his memory. For a time the house served double duty as both a shrine to Ruth and the official museum of the Baltimore Orioles. In 2005, the Orioles museum moved to its new home at Camden Yards; the house’s only focus now is the Bambino.
The Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum of today is more-or-less divided between the rowhouse’s rooms and its hallways: the rooms are decorated as Babe Ruth would have seen them as a young boy, and the hallways are dedicated to exhibits on Ruth’s time in baseball.
The historic furniture in the rooms is certainly aesthetically pleasing, but I imagine only truly die-hard Babe Ruth fans will really enjoy seeing chairs and beds once belonging to Ruth’s relatives.
The back hallway opens up into a larger space, adjoining properties having been used to expand the original rowhouse’s footprint. It’s auditorily amusing to step from the new to the old–the back hallways lack the front rooms’ time-appropriate creaks of well-worn floorboards.
The hallways hold exhibits much more engaging than staged furniture. There’s a short video explaining why the US National Anthem is played before baseball games (the tradition started during the 1918 World Series in which Babe Ruth was playing). There are rows of sports memorabilia, including rare Ruth trading cards and autographed baseballs.
There’s also a plastic case catering to my tactile nature–partially enclosed within are two baseball bats, one actually used by Ruth and the other by Cal Ripken, ready to be touched.
The make-your-own-souvenir-penny machine has only the most tangential connection to Ruth, and yet it also succeeds in grabbing my attention (and my 50 cents).
Overall, the museum is far more captivating than I expected it to be. There are enough neat mementos and fascinating tales about Ruth to entertain both fervent baseball fans and casual spectators like me. But even though I run into a few families, I wouldn’t call the museum particularly child-friendly. Consider leaving the little ones at home for this one.
If You Go
The Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum is at 216 Emory Street, Baltimore. There are a few street parking spots, but the easiest option is to take the Light Rail to nearby Camden Station. If you’re coming from DC, take the MARC Camden Line from Union Station to Camden Station. Note that the Camden Line does not run on weekends.
Admittance to the Museum is $6 for adults; there is also a combined ticket offering admission to both the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum and the Sports Legends Museum for $12.
The Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum is open Tuesday-Sunday, 10AM-5PM. Starting in April, it will be open on Mondays as well.