Anne Arundel's 'Babe' ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY

December 28, 1992

When Gordon "Babe" Phelps died a few weeks back at age 84, Anne Arundel County lost one of its all-time athletic greats. A life-long Odenton resident, Mr. Phelps experienced some of the glory days -- if not-so-well compensated days -- of baseball.

He was a local legend as the top hitter for the Odenton Athletic Club (which played in the Southwestern Industrial League and the Baltimore Major League).

His big break came in 1930, when the owner of the Washington Senators saw Mr. Phelps play against the Bowie Athletic Club and decided that he had the potential to play in the professional major leagues.

A left-handed hitting catcher, Babe Phelps played 11 seasons with the Senators, Chicago Cubs and Brooklyn Dodgers. His final season was in 1942, when he was traded from the Dodgers to the Pirates. The following year, he joined the Phillies but was suspended for not having signed by the mandatory date. He returned home to Odenton and went to work with the Pennsylvania Railroad.

Mr. Phelps got his nickname because at 6-foot-2 and 235 pounds, he was shaped like Baltimore's more famous Babe, a fellow named Ruth.

The annals of Abner Doubleday's diversion are full of stars who were soon forgotten, who became impoverished and died in obscurity. Babe Phelps may never have gotten rich off the game that now produces millionaires routinely; even in his best season he never made more than $1,000. But he led a full and satisfying life. Even after he became ill with cancer in recent years, he was not forgotten.

In fact, Mr. Phelps claimed he was more popular in his golden years than in his playing days. In recent times, he got a big kick out of requests by collectors for his autograph. One Australian even sent him a Brooklyn Dodgers team picture, which already had been signed by a number of players, and asked Mr. Phelps to add his name to it.

Equally important were formal honors Mr. Phelps received. He was inducted into the Brooklyn Dodgers' Hall of Fame, the Maryland State Athletic Hall of Fame and, last year, into the Anne Arundel County Sports Hall of Fame.

It's quite a team up there in heaven. Anne Arundel County's "Babe" will no doubt be an inspiration to it, as he was when he was living among us.

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