Friday, May 6, 2011

Babe Ruth Was More Than a Yankee!

One of the great challenges our institution faces is luring Baltimoreans to the Babe Ruth Birthplace. Ask them why they haven’t visited 216 Emory Street, “just a long fly ball from Camden Yards,” and they respond simply: Babe Ruth was a Yankee! And, indeed, for most baseball fans, local, national and international, Ruth was and remains the iconic pinstripe.

But that should not stop home town visitors from flocking to his Birthplace. Here’s why.

George Herman ‘Babe’ Ruth was born in southwest Baltimore, on the verge dividing Pigtown and Camden Yards, in 1895. He was raised on hardscrabble streets by hardworking parents who were so busy running their family saloon that they were forced to send their son to St. Mary’s Industrial School for a heavy dose of discipline, religion…and baseball.

Babe Ruth’s rags to riches story was emblematic of the turn-of-the-century Baltimore environment from which he sprouted. He was a tough kid from a tough town, but also from a community that cared enough to raise him right and let his extraordinary skills develop.

And keep this in mind. Babe Ruth, the Yankee, was discovered by Jack Dunn, owner and manager of the International League Baltimore Orioles, in 1913. Dunn signed Ruth to his first pro contract in 1914, and agreed to serve as the boy’s legal guardian to boot. That led to the ‘phenom from Pigtown’ being referred to as “Jack Dunn’s Baby” in spring training that year, which, a couple of months later, had shortened to “Babe.”

Please, Baltimore, be proud that the greatest ballplayer of all time and baseball’s greatest star is one of your own, and an Oriole to boot! Without his Baltimore beginnings, there would have been no New York end! Celebrate Babe Ruth, our most famous native son.

Mike Gibbons is the executive director for the Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation, Inc.

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