Ruth Museum adds touch of Cuba

O's donate items from Havana's historic game

April 07, 1999|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

Anytime a supposed light-hitting catcher such as the Orioles' Charles Johnson is mentioned in the same breath with Babe Ruth, it is a compliment to be cherished.

That was Johnson's situation yesterday when the Orioles donated the bat he used to hit a towering, second-inning home run in a historic 3-2 victory in 11 innings over Cuba 10 days ago to the Babe Ruth Museum.

Johnson, beginning his first season in Baltimore, was swinging a Rawlings "Big Stick" bat with a Dodgers label still on it when he gave the Orioles a 2-0 lead.

But that Los Angeles label didn't deter the enthusiasm of Ruth Museum director Mike Gibbons at all as he received Johnson's bat and five other items of Orioles memorabilia from the first baseball game played by U.S. major-leaguers on Cuban soil in 40 years.

"People were cracking on us because of all the talk about the stuff going to the Baseball Hall of Fame from the Cuba game," said Gibbons. "So it's great for us to get these outstanding items. It will certainly be one of the highlights of this season for us. We will feature certain programs with the Cuba display throughout the summer, having people who went on the trip come over to the museum to talk and share their experiences. We'll announce the time of those programs later."

Orioles general manager Frank Wren presented Gibbons the Johnson bat and the rest of the historic collection from the March 28 game. The presentation took place in front of the Babe Ruth statue on a breezy and sunny afternoon at Camden Yards.

The Orioles-Cuba memorabilia will go on exhibit April 30 and remain on display throughout the summer. The collection will be updated after Cuba plays the Orioles on May 3 at Camden Yards.

Members of the Orioles' front office said yesterday a time for that May 3 game and ticket information will be released in the next seven days.

Highlighting the other five items given by the Orioles to the Ruth Museum was the bat Harold Baines used to hit a two-out single up the middle to score Will Clark in the top of the 11th inning with what proved to be the deciding run.

There had been speculation that Baines' bat might go to the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

The rest of the collection included the batting gloves B. J. Surhoff used to get the first Orioles hit in the game, the hat Scott Erickson wore as he pitched the first seven innings, the lineup card that was written by coach Eddie Murray, and the ball former Washington Senators pitcher Connie Morales used to throw out the first pitch.

Morales wanted to stay on the mound a little longer and threw five ceremonial pitches to Brady Anderson, who tried to bunt one.

Wren said of the Cuba trip: "We soon realized we were not only representing the Orioles but we were representing Major League Baseball and our country. We felt all three of those obligations in different stages and thought we did an outstanding job and we won the game."

Gibbons said the Ruth Museum exhibit on the trip to Cuba will also include small items, depicting life in that country, brought back by members of the Orioles delegation.

The Orioles said the credential Cal Ripken received for the trip and did not use because of the death of his father will be given to the Cal Ripken Museum in Aberdeen.

Pub Date: 4/07/99

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