Why does Camden Yards have a Ruth statue?

February 11th, 2021

Standing guard like a bronze sentry at the entrance of Camden Yards, the statue of ties one of the greatest baseball players to the city of Baltimore in perpetuity. Ruth is not the only statue standing on Eutaw Street. But the rest are Orioles legends: Cal Ripken Jr., Jim Palmer, Eddie Murray, Earl Weaver, Brooks Robinson and Frank Robinson.

What is such a famous Yankee doing out there with those immortal O's?

Simply put, Ruth is there because his Baltimore connections ran deep. Before he rose to fame in New York, The Bambino was a Baltimore boy.

Here are some facts you might not have known about The Sultan of Swat's connection to Charm City and the Orioles:

Ruth was born in Baltimore
The Hall of Famer was born at 216 Emory St. in the Pigtown neighborhood on Feb. 6, 1895, and grew up in the city.

Ruth played for the Orioles
Not for the current big league team, but Ruth signed his first professional contract with the Orioles of the International League in 1914, debuting at age 19.

Who were the International League Orioles?
OK, let's back up. Some history:

Before the current Orioles returned to Baltimore in 1954, the city thrice hosted Major League teams: an American Association squad from 1882-91, a National League team in the '90s and a short-lived American League charter franchise from 1901-02. In between, from '03-53 (minus a two-year hiatus from '15-16,) the city was home to two Minor League teams, both nicknamed the Orioles. The International League version of the Orioles were one of the most successful Minor League teams of all time, capturing seven consecutive pennants from '19-25.

Ruth didn't play for them for very long
Very briefly, in fact. Ruth attended Orioles 1914 Spring Training in Fayetteville, N.C., hitting his first professional home run on March 7 at the Cape Fear Fairgrounds. He made his regular-season debut on April 22 at Oriole Park on Greenmount Avenue and 29th Street, pitching the O's to a 6-2 victory over the defending World Series champion Philadelphia A's, according to The Baltimore Sun. By July, Ruth was headed north, sold for $16,000 to the Red Sox by O's owner/manager Jack Dunn, who was facing financial competition from the upstart Federal League.

He was discovered at a private tryout
At age 7, Ruth was sent to St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys, a Catholic reformatory located near Camden Yards. He was encouraged to play baseball by the school's prefect of discipline, Brother Matthias Boutilier, who invited Dunn to scout Ruth when he was a teenager. All told, Ruth spent 12 years at the school before beginning his baseball career.

Related

He earned the nickname Babe with the Orioles
According to legend, Ruth was given the nickname on one of his first days as an Oriole. Upon arriving at Spring Training with Dunn in 1914, teammates began referring to Ruth as "Jack's new babe." It stuck and the Babe was born.

Ruth's legacy remains in Baltimore. Several landmarks with Ruth connections still dot the city. Some examples:

• The Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum, opened in 1974, recreates the Pigtown apartment Ruth lived in as a child just a short distance from Camden Yards.

• St. Paul Catholic Church, where Ruth married his first wife, Helen, in 1914, still stands in Ellicott City, Md.

According to multiple reports, Ruth's father, George Ruth Sr., owned a tavern that once resided on the current Oriole Park playing field. Ruth and Helen lived there after their marriage in 1914, according to the Chicago Tribune. The building stood roughly 20 paces into shallow left-center field, where a bloop single might drop in between the shortstop and two outfielders.