Babe's baseballs wanted Those that he signed sought for exhibit

August 19, 1992|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

The county Historical Society is looking for baseballs -- autographed by Baltimore's own Babe Ruth -- that could rekindle memories of when America's past time came to Camp Meade 68 years ago.

The Bambino himself hit 24 balls into a crowd of 1,800 citizen soldiers the day after Independence Day, 1924.

Now the Ann Arrundell County Historical Society would like to find some of those treasures so it can set up a joint exhibit with the Fort Meade Museum.

But officials are not very optimistic. "It seems unlikely at this point," said society member Jack Mellin, who wrote an article on the Babe's appearance in last month's society newsletter.

Still, Mr. Mellin said he hopes to capitalize on the wave of baseball interest generated by Baltimore's new ballpark, which sits near Babe Ruth's childhood home.

"It just seems like a trendy thing," Mr. Mellin said.

FTC So far, no one has come forward with one of the balls.

Bob Johnson, curator of the Fort Meade Museum, said he has heard rumors for years that the balls are out there. "But I don't know who it is that has them," he added.

Babe Ruth came to Camp Meade (it didn't become Fort Meade until 1929) to put on a baseball demonstration for the citizen-soldiers -- volunteers who signed up for four summers of training. The program was started to arouse interest in national defense.

Camp Meade was one of 39 such sights around the country, called Citizens Military Training Camps. From 1922 to 1925, more than 100,000 people participated.

Babe Ruth gave a speech, in which he encouraged everyone to be baseball fans, and put on a show with Nick Altrock, a pitcher and coach with the Washington Senators and a consummate showman known for his antics and pregame clown routines on the field.

An anonymous writer for The Defender, a yearbook for the citizen-soldiers, wrote that Ruth "batted 24 autographed balls into the field, where there was a scrimmage for them."

The writer continued to say Altrock, who was next up at bat, put on "his clowning act and asking the audience to imitate him." The Defender said 10 citizens were chosen to try out for the Washington Senators.

Anyone who has any information about autographed Babe Ruth balls from Camp Meade is urged to call Mr. Mellin at the historical society at 760-9679.

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