What the Baltimore Orioles and Babe Ruth Have in Common (Besides the Obvious, That Is!)


Orioles_new

Baltimore Orioles logo.

Because it is summer and the height of baseball season, I have decided this week’s blog will focus on the Baltimore Orioles, Maryland’s only major league baseball team. The connection with archaeology and artifacts from the Maryland Archaeological Conservation Laboratory collections may not be immediately apparent, but stick with me—we will get there!

The Orioles began life as a major league team franchise in 1901 as the Milwaukee Brewers (Wikipedia).  After a year in Milwaukee, the franchise moved to St. Louis as the St. Louis Browns.  In September of 1953, the team’s owners voted unanimously to move the team to Baltimore, where they were renamed in honor of the official state bird (Orioles.com). Their first Baltimore game was played at Memorial Stadium the following year (Orioles.com).  They were to remain at Memorial Stadium through the 1991 season, taking three World Series titles and 6 American League pennants during this period. Although the team suffered a stretch of losing seasons during the last decade (they’re back these last two years!), they remain a major economic driver for the city. A recent economic impact study showed that Oriole Park at Camden Yards generated 166.9 million dollars in business sales during the 2006 season and supported almost 2,500 jobs (CABER 2007).

Babe_Ruth

George Herman (Babe) Ruth, Jr. in 1920, during his career with the New York Yankees.

So, what about this connection with Babe Ruth?  Ruth, one of the most famous names in baseball, never played for the major league Baltimore Orioles team (Ruth did have a brief stint in 1914 with the minor league Baltimore Orioles).  In his twenty-two year career in major league baseball, Ruth played for the Boston Red Sox, the New York Yankees and the Boston Braves. Interestingly, though, an American League Orioles team was formed in 1901, leaving Baltimore after two years and moving to New York, where they eventually became the Yankees, Ruth’s team.

In my mind, what connects Ruth to the Orioles is the City of Baltimore itself and, more specifically, the Orioles’ current stadium, Camden Yards.  Opened on April 6, 1992, Oriole Park is located at 333 West Camden Street, just two blocks from Ruth’s birthplace. The architecture of the park was influenced by the ballparks of the early twentieth century and is a really great place (in my opinion) to watch a baseball game while enjoying a cold beer and a hotdog.

George Herman (Babe) Ruth, Jr. was born in Baltimore’s Pigtown neighborhood in 1895 to Katherine and George Herman Ruth, Sr. By the time Ruth was of school age, his family ran a saloon at 406 West Conway Street, with an upstairs apartment for the family.  In addition to being a drinking establishment, the saloon also served meals, with the lunch clientele being primarily industrial workers (Kuranda et al. 1992).  The site of the Ruth Saloon (18BC79) was excavated in 1990, as part of the archaeological data recovery conducted prior to the construction of Camden Yards (Kuranda et al. 1992). Artifacts recovered from the excavations included bottles that once held alcoholic beverages, animal bone from meals prepared at the saloon, broken dishes and dice that may have been used by saloon patrons.

saloon on Lombard Street ca. 1917

Babe Ruth (second from right) and his father (far right) in a later saloon, located at Lombard and Eutaw Streets, ca. 1917.

liquor

Liquor bottles recovered during the excavation of the Ruth Saloon on West Camden Street.

To me, it is fitting that the site of the former home of one of baseball’s greatest players and one of the first players inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, would one day become the location of a Major League Baseball park and particularly one whose architecture pays homage to the early days of the sport, when Ruth began his illustrious career.

References

CABER

2007  The Impact of Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Maryland’s Economy, 2006.  Report prepared for the Maryland Stadium Authority by CABER, Towson University. Website accessed July 11, 2013 at http://baltimore.orioles.mlb.com/bal/images/oriolepark/impact_camden.pdf.

Kuranda, Kathryn M., Elizabeth Pena, Suzanne Sanders and Martha Williams

1992  Archeological and Architectural Investigations at Camden Yards, Baltimore, Maryland. Volume I.  Christopher Goodwin & Associates, Inc.  Report on file at the Maryland Historical Trust, Crownsville, Maryland.

Orioles.com

Ballparks:  1954 – Present.  Orioles.com:History. Website accessed on July 11, 2013.  http://baltimore.orioles.mlb.com/bal/history/index.jsp.

Orioles Timeline.  Orioles.com:History. Website accessed on July 11, 2013.  http://baltimore.orioles.mlb.com/bal/history/index.jsp.

Wikipedia

Baltimore Orioles.  Wikipedia.  Website accessed on July 11, 2013.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Baltimore_Orioles.

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