Addition to Babe Ruth Museum to be housed in Camden Station

June 29, 1995|By Joan Jacobson | Joan Jacobson,Sun Staff Writer

The Babe Ruth Museum is planning a major expansion inside the historic Camden Station at Oriole Park that will feature exhibits on the history of baseball in Baltimore and will be home to a hall of fame for the Babe Ruth League for young players.

Michael Gibbons, executive director of the Babe Ruth Museum, said the new museum -- which has yet to be named -- will resemble the inside of a ballpark and will feature memorabilia from all of Baltimore's former ball yards, dating back to the 1870s.

Maryland's Board of Public Works approved $4.6 million yesterday to finance the basic renovations for Camden Station.

The plan includes a family-style restaurant -- yet to be chosen -- for part of the train station building.

The new uses for Camden Station, at the northern end of Oriole Park along Camden Street, mark the first major development there since Oriole Park opened three years ago. Officials hope it will become a major tourist attraction for conventioneers and baseball fans.

The 25,000-square-foot museum will be a little smaller than the Baltimore Museum of Art's new wing for contemporary art.

The current Babe Ruth museum at 216 Emory St. in Ridgley's Delight -- Babe Ruth's birthplace -- will remain intact, Mr. Gibbons said. The new museum will include a theater that will show "specially produced multimedia presentations," he said.

"This will not be a museum of uniforms in dusty cases. The uniforms and artifacts will help tell the story, but they will be displayed in a dynamic, state-of-the-art" exhibit, Mr. Gibbons said.

Visitors will find, "the little neat things that if you're a Baltimore baseball fan might mean something to you," he said.

The new museum and Babe Ruth's birthplace will be connected by a baseball "walk" with banners, baseball plaques on building facades and, possibly, brass baseballs in the sidewalks, he said.

A shuttle bus also will connect the two museums and will take visitors to the B&O Railroad Museum and the the historic Mount Claire Mansion in Southwest Baltimore.

Ted Spencer, curator of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., said the only similar museum he knows of is run by the Texas Rangers in Arlington, which, like Baltimore, has a new stadium. He said other museums connected to major league teams are smaller.

The exterior of the 19th-century train station, which was used in transporting Civil War troops, was restored in 1992.

The state money will pay for elevators, restrooms, and heating and air conditioning systems, said Bruce Hoffman, executive director of the Maryland Stadium Authority.

He said the public money is needed because the museum and restaurant would not be able to afford the building's initial renovations.

"This public money will bring it up to a leasing condition," he said.

Mr. Hoffman said the Stadium Authority will advertise for bids from an "entertaining family restaurant with a good reputation that will be a tourist attraction."

Mr. Gibbons said basic construction will be finished by next summer. There is no target date for the museum's opening, he said, but it should be completed within two years.

The museum also will include an exhibit on Baltimore's two Negro baseball leagues, which played from the 1920s to the 1940s, and classrooms where schoolchildren will be able to study subjects such as math and history through baseball.

Mr. Gibbons said the Babe Ruth League's Hall of Fame would be a first for that organization, which oversees competition for teens. Orioles pitcher Ben McDonald and shortstop Cal Ripken played Babe Ruth ball, Mr. Gibbons said.

If the hall of fame does well, the league, which has 30 employees, might move here from Trenton, N.J.

Mr. Gibbons said he does not know the total cost of the new exhibits, but the museum has earmarked $2.15 million from the state and the Babe Ruth League. The museum continues to raise money from corporations, foundations and individuals to sponsor specific exhibits.

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