(AKA: “O” say does that star spangled banner yet wave?)
With Friday night’s game ending early, I decided to take advantage and sleep earlier than usual. After bidding farewell to the town of Laurel and all the wonderful people there, I thought I would stop by Camden Yards area one more time. Not for a ballgame, but to check out a couple museums that I had heard so much about. My first stop was the Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards which featured an excellent look into the Orioles’ history, and even the history of baseball in Baltimore. I won’t divulge everything you will find in this museum because my point of view and some of the pictures do not do this museum any justice.
First, you are guided towards the waiting room where the “Nicolay Draft” of the Gettysburg Address is prominently displayed. A little history before we enter the makeshift B&O train through the history of Baltimore sports. First, the travels of the ball players are shown, and in here include some artifacts from the Orioles first game. Fun fact: Don Larsen pitched the first Orioles’ game in 1954. Yes, this is the same Don Larsen who would go on to pitch a perfect game for the New York Yankees in the 1956 World Series.
After making a right turn past the train, you are led through a section featuring “Babe Ruth: American Icon.” After that, I had to give a chuckle because the museum used the same idea I had used for my current blog, and that’s going through an adventure in nine innings!
In the late 1800s, the Baltimore Orioles were a team in the American Association that were considered a major league-type team. When the AA disbanded and later merged with the National League, the Orioles became one of twelve teams in the NL. In the mid to late 1890s, the National League were the only major league around before the AL was created in 1901. I feel that in order to appreciate the present, one must first appreciate the past, and I was in awe of how much the city of Baltimore embraced their baseball past. There is even a huge banner for the NL champion, Baltimore Orioles… from 1895. More items from that short-lived NL era remain intact and are on display here.
Also shown are the syndicate baseball years, and the Orioles run in the International League between both World Wars. After that, we finally get to the current incarnation of the Baltimore Orioles who were relocated from St. Louis (and previously called the Browns). Sadly, there is VERY little reference to the team formerly being called the St. Louis Browns. Then again, the Orioles franchise wanted to disassociate itself with a team that was known for losing nearly all the time. In fact, the Browns were consistently the doormats of Major League Baseball, and held so many records for futility. This new team would adopt a motto called “The Oriole Way” thereby eliminating nearly all mentions of those Browns.
Further down the museum, we go through the entire Orioles history, including their three World Series titles. Finally, we get to the big part of the Orioles floor. At the end, we have an entire section dedicated to one of the greatest players to ever put on an Orioles jersey, or any jersey for that matter: Cal Ripken, Jr. As I said in a prior post, I vividly remember watching the game when he broke Lou Gehrig’s record of consecutive games played. Imagine my awe when I walked into that room and saw those number banners that once hung from the old B&O warehouse beyond right field. Yes, the “2131” banner is currently hanging inside the museum.
Quickly going through the rest of the museum, we see displays for the old stadiums, the Baltimore Colts, and the Baltimore Ravens. A couple highlights in the lower floor include a seat with an old microphone where you can call the action of a famous Baltimore sports moment. Of course, I chose Ripken’s home run during his record-breaking game in 1995. After finishing at this museum, I thanked the curators and made my way outside in the drizzling rain.
Soon after saying a final goodbye to the Camden Yards area, I hopped in my car for the three block drive to make my way to the Babe Ruth Birthplace & Museum. The featured film inside the museum is “O” Say Can You See: The Star Spangled Banner In Sports. I will just come out and say this, but the film brought a tear to my eye. For the record, I loved the very end of the film, which is shown at this link:
The bedroom where he was born is very well preserved, and is like a flashback to what it was like at the turn of the century… the 19th Century, that is. Included are artifacts from his first professional games as a Baltimore Oriole in the minor leagues, and his first games as a Red Sox player. Oh, there is even a score book from his first professional game where he pitched a shutout. There is also a wall with 714 plaques showing all of his home runs, and who they were hit off of.
Another feature of this museum is the “500 Home Run Club” honoring many players. Of course, while some consider Ruth to be the “Home Run King,” and even more people consider Hank Aaron to be the statistical leader in home runs, there is still debate as to whether Barry Bonds belongs on that list. Yes, this was discussed by some older gentlemen also visiting the museum, and they overwhelmingly agreed that Aaron and Ruth are the true home run kings… not even giving the nod to “someone who may have taken steroids.” That cloud will always hover over many players in what some historians are already dubbing “The Steroid Era.” I won’t give any personal opinions here or show any bias, but from a baseball perspective, it is sad that we live in this era, and are now quick to judge any player who shows some power and automatically ask the question, “Is he on steroids?” This just makes me appreciate those past days even more.
After going around all the other displays during Ruth’s playing days, the highlight for me was the movie about the Star Spangled Banner. Yes, there IS a direct link involving Babe Ruth and the Star Spangled Banner being played before every MLB game (except for those games when the former Expos and current Blue Jays played) and I won’t spoil it for you. But, the production was that good, and I would want to watch it again and again. Also of great significance, this marks the 200th anniversary of the Star Spangled Banner, so there was some special meaning to this film being shown right now. Yes, September will mark exactly 200 years that Francis Scott Key wrote a poem that contained those now famous lyrics, and even after visiting the Babe Ruth birthplace, I made it a point to stop at Fort McHenry where that famous battle took place in 1814. Since this is a sports blog, I won’t go into too much detail about Fort McHenry. Plus, if I did go into detail, I would write pages about my experience there.
With that said, I highly suggest that everyone check out those two museums if you’re in Baltimore, and especially make a stop to Fort McHenry to see where the Star Spangled Banner began. The city is proud of their place in history with regards to that patriotic song, and it clearly shows. As an American citizen, I can greatly appreciate the meaning of the song and still get chills when I hear it. From the drum and fife playing in Baltimore, to the old band playing before a race during Boston Marathon weekend, to hearing a nearly-packed Camden Yards shouting “O!” at a certain part of the song… it still gets to me. Thank you very much for reading, everybody!
Post-script: Be sure to also check out my twitter, which is @StimpyJD, and check out the hash-tag #JDsBallparkTour for tweets and pictures from my ballparks travels. Also, follow this blog and keep an eye for updates to this blog as I’m not close to done yet!