Earlier this year, I went to Washington, DC with my family on Spring Break. Since it was in April, and baseball season had just gotten underway, I naturally wanted to take in a ballgame if I could. The Nationals were out of town that week, but the Orioles were playing at home against the Twins. It was a bit of a drive, about an hour or so, but being in Baltimore allowed us some time to see the sights of this historic city.
The city is best known as the home of Fort McHenry, whose bombardment by the British inspired attorney Francis Scott Key to write “The Star Spangled Banner.” We didn’t get to see that site, but we did see Federal Hill, which is nearby and has an enormous Stars and Stripes flying atop it. Explaining what the words to Key’s composition meant, in that place, was an experience I’ll always treasure.
We spent some time at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, before heading in the direction of the Orioles’ Stadium, commonly known as Camden Yards (although the official name is something like “Orioles Ballpark at Camden Yards.”) On our way, just a few blocks from the ballpark, is a house located at 216 Emory Street, which now serves as the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum. Yes, Babe Ruth was born just a few blocks away from where Camden Yards now stands.
The house itself was a window into a world that doesn’t exist anymore, but it allowed me to tell the story of George Herman Ruth to my two young daughters. Whether they enjoyed it or not, I sure enjoyed telling it. And, as an added bonus, I picked up some vintage Topps “wax packs” baseball cards in the gift shop on my way out. Old habits die hard, I suppose.
We went to the game on a wonderful spring evening and sat in the bleachers, just about where Nolan Reimold’s ground rule double bounced into the stands last night. The game I was at ended in dramatic fashion, with a catch on the warning track to preserve a one-run Orioles’ victory. (The final score of the game escapes me at the moment, but the one-run margin is enough to know).
As we gathered our things and left the stadium on Eutaw Street (which is the concourse area beneath the large warehouse out past the right field wall) I stopped at a large statue of a young Ruth, named “Babe’s Dream.” I found it strange that he would have a statue in Baltimore, since he was known for playing in New York and Boston instead. I then realized that by putting the statue up as they did, the city of Baltimore was claiming Ruth as its own. Larry Bird–to give a modern example–played professionally in Boston, but he still calls himself the “hick from French Lick (Indiana)” and is affiliated with Indiana’s basketball franchise, not Boston’s. It all made sense to me on that night.
So if there ever was anything to this “Curse of the Bambino” thing–and I’m not saying I know it one way or the other–isn’t it strange that last night’s Boston collapse happened in the shadows of this statue of Ruth? Nobody seems to have pointed this out, and it’s probably just a coincidence, anyway, but Ruth’s hometown didn’t seem very hospitable to the Red Sox last night.
Trying to find something that explains the inexplicable can lead you down some silly paths sometimes. But last night was so strange, so otherworldly, that it’s not outlandish to think that Ruth, or the spirit of Ruth, was somehow involved with last night’s outcome. At the very least, I can imagine young George Herman getting a good laugh out of it.