Babe Ruth was born a hundred years ago this year in Baltimore’s “pigstown” section. The first thing to know about the Babe Ruth Museum there is that while Kate Ruth did give birth to him in a little bedroom upstairs, the building was never his home. Mrs. Ruth thought her mother’s three-story brick row house, at 216 Emory Street, would be a finer place to come into the world than the saloon where her husband worked a few blocks away. The upper front bedroom looks pretty much as it did then, respectable and small; the rest of the building is devoted to the baseball exploits of the barkeep’s son. Downstairs has been broken out into a gift shop and multiple displays, starting with twenty-one broad rubber noses, pinned to a white board and which the actor Stephen Lang wore—a different one each day—for the filming of Babe Ruth for TV. The collection also has Ruth’s shotgun, an official Babe Ruth Wristwatch and miniature musical bat, and a wrapper from the Babe Ruth candy bar, which ran into copyright trouble from the makers of the Baby Ruth bar.
The museum has an impressive number of baseball autographs, and on the back wall 714 mounted cards give the circumstances of each of Ruth’s home runs. On the main staircase the balusters are, naturally, full-size baseball bats. The house several blocks away where the Babe actually lived for a time is gone, along with his father’s bar, but over their ruins has risen the new pride of the city where the Orioles play, Camden Yards. A surviving brick from George Ruth’s old pub sits under glass at his son’s museum. So does a hymnal from St. Mary’s Industrial School, Ruth’s home for twelve years, on whose fields the undevout boy found his true calling. (216 Emory Street, Baltimore, MD 21230, 410-727-1539)