Linda McKiernan wasn't sure why, but she wanted to take a drive to Baltimore yesterday with her family from their home in Washington to the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum.
"Maybe there's something magical and mystical about it," she said in the museum's gift shop, checking out tin replicas of major league baseball fields. "Maybe The Babe was calling."
If so, a lot of people heard the call. On the 50th anniversary of his death yesterday, traffic was heavy with fans and fanatics who wanted to glimpse a ball that he signed, his scratchy uniform, his trading cards and the pictures of his pug-nosed face that hang from almost every room in the museum.
It was 8: 01 p.m. when Ruth died in Hawthorne, N.Y., said Paul Egbert, who has been working at the museum for eight years. About 150 people had entered the museum by midday yesterday, Egbert said. On any other Sunday that the Orioles aren't at Camden Yards, the museum might get 100 visitors.
Mickey Foxwell of Baltimore had his 5-year-old son, Louis, in tow, checking out the memorabilia, including a photograph of Ruth which, appropriately enough, is bigger than life.
"I'm a baseball nut," explained the father, "and I thought the 50th anniversary of Babe Ruth's death was the perfect time to bring him."
Louis, for his part, knows quite a bit about Ruth. He can tell you that Ruth hit 714 home runs, though he did not know that Ruth considered his greatest accomplishment pitching 29 2/3 consecutive innings of scoreless ball in the World Series.
All of that information is in the museum, some of it on wall plaques, some of it on a video on Ruth's life narrated by CBS correspondent Mike Wallace. Visitors can see Orioles memorabilia as well: the "2131" banner that hung from the B&O Warehouse at Camden Yards when Cal Ripken broke the record for consecutive games, baseballs from World Series games, random bits of history.
But the main attraction is the house Ruth's father built.
Jim Shetler, 36, of Baltimore wasn't sure what drew him to the museum, either, but he was there and glad of it. His father had met Babe Ruth during the 1932 World Series, he said, so any anniversary was an appropriate time for the son to make his first visit to the museum.
"For some reason I've never been here before," Shetler said. "So, today was the day. It just happened to be the anniversary, and for some reason I ended up here."
Pub Date: 8/17/98