One of the cooler things about Twitter is the potential for useful interactivity between people who follow each other. For example, one of my followers is vacationing in Maryland and asked his followers for baseball-related ideas in that area. That prompted me to send him a link to a Baltimore baseball travel story I wrote last year (published in The Times), which I am now sharing with all of my Bread Line readers, just in case any of you are planning a trip to that area.
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Ever since Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened in 1992, baseball fans have heard the retro ballpark is one of the best stadiums in which to see a game.
I wouldn’t go as far to say that, but the Baltimore Orioles ballpark is attractive and worth visiting, especially if you add a couple of nearby baseball museums to your trip’s itinerary. The small but interesting Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum is only two blocks from Camden Yards, and the Sports Legends Museum is even closer.
Camden Yards is a nice place to watch a ballgame, but I wasn’t bowled over by its beauty.
I suppose I was expecting baseball heaven after hearing for 15 years that it is the next best thing to classic old ballparks like Wrigley Field and Fenway Park. And Camden Yards has nothing on Wrigley Field, a true baseball mecca with unique characteristics like outfield ivy and a hand-operated scoreboard.
It also doesn’t help that since Camden Yards opened to much fanfare, more than a dozen other “retro” ballparks have been built and therefore blunted the awe factor of the Baltimore ballfield. I’ve visited some of the other retro stadiums, so after I finally made it to Camden Yards last season, it didn’t seem too special. I probably would have felt differently had I visited the park in 1992.
That being said, I found the area just outside the ballpark charming. Some of the newer stadiums have these nearby “ballpark villages” — one is in the works across the street from the new Busch Stadium in St. Louis — so as to manufacture a fan-friendly area akin to Wrigleyville. In Baltimore, this concept really works. Located just beyond the outfield wall, there are markers scattered throughout the walkway indicating where long home runs landed. They can be fun to look for, as long as you don’t get trampled when you stop to read them.
The ballpark village includes small gift shops and places to eat, most notably Orioles legend Boog Powell’s barbecue stand. The cost of food there is a bit more than the going rate for eats inside the ballpark, but where else can you get served by a former first baseman and fan favorite (and get an autograph if you’re lucky)?
The ballpark village entrance includes a statue of a young Babe Ruth and large silver numbers representing those worn by Orioles greats such as Cal Ripken Jr., Brooks Robinson, Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray and Frank Robinson.
Seven years after Ripken retired, the numbers representing his record amount of consecutive games played still hang from the warehouse facade next to the ballpark village and are clearly visible from inside Camden Yards.
BABE RUTH BIRTHPLACE
The reason New York Yankees great Babe Ruth gets a statue outside Camden Yards is because the former all-time home run king was born and raised in Baltimore. In fact, he was born just a few blocks away from the Orioles’ ballpark.
The Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum is worth walking the short distance to visit. The place is small but makes the most of its space. There is furniture from Ruth’s family (including the bed where the future slugger was born in 1895) and numerous collectibles and memorabilia associated with the Sultan of Swat, such as a catcher’s mitt he used while living at St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, an orphanage and reformatory.
What I found most interesting in the museum is the small alcove dedicated to the 23 (now 25) players who hit more than 500 home runs during their careers. Jerseys, bats and baseballs autographed by many of these men are on display.
SPORTS LEGENDS MUSEUM
Closer to Camden Yards is the Sports Legends Museum, which almost literally is just a stone’s throw away from the stadium. This museum does not exclusively cover baseball. In addition to an Orioles wing, there is memorabilia from football’s old Baltimore Colts team (with a special section devoted to Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas) and current Baltimore Ravens team, the city’s indoor soccer team and Maryland collegiate stars. Also included are looks at the city’s association with the Negro Leagues and minor-league baseball.
Not being a Marylander, this museum didn’t appeal much to me, but there is a reduced admission price available for those who also visit the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum.