Saint Agnes Hospital Steps Up To The Plate
By Tim Richardson
Before there was the "House That Ruth Built" in New York, a number of places in Baltimore shaped George Herman "Babe" Ruth into baseball's first icon.
Among those places was a baseball field off Caton Avenue in Arbutus.
Earlier this month, Saint Agnes Hospital recorded the baseball equivalent of a "save" by announcing it had agreed to purchase the grounds of the former Cardinal Gibbons High School from the Archdiocese of Baltimore, and that part of their plans involved preserving Babe Ruth Field. Discussions between Saint Agnes and the Archdiocese began in December 2011. Financial terms of the purchase were not disclosed.
Cardinal Gibbons occupied the former site of St. Mary's Industrial School, where Ruth enrolled in 1902 and learned the game of baseball under the tutelage of Brother Matthias.
|A young Babe Ruth at St. Mary's Industrial School.
(Photo Courtesy of Babe Ruth BirthplaceFoundation
When the Archdiocese closed Cardinal Gibbons in 2010 because of financial reasons, concerns arose about the future of the historic baseball diamond Ruth once used.
"To me, and to baseball fans everywhere, I suspect, that field is hallowed ground for our national pastime," said Mike Gibbons, executive director of the Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation. "I was worried that it would be converted into a parking lot or office building."
While details regarding the development of the property are still in the preliminary stage, Shareese N. Churchill, a spokeswoman for Saint Agnes, said preserving the field played a major role in their plans, because it is a part of history.
"It is our hope in the future, children can stand in the same place where Babe Ruth swung his bat so many times when playing for St. Mary's Industrial School," Churchill said.
In addition to Babe Ruth Field, another all-purpose field will be constructed and Saint Agnes is in discussions with the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation as a partner on the field development project. William Greskovich, vice president of operation and capital projects for Saint Agnes, told The Catholic Review that home plate (in the present-day outfield) on Babe Ruth Field will be located on the exact spot from Ruth's playing days. It was from that original spot that Ruth allegedly knocked a 600-foot home run onto Caton Avenue.
For the Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation, the Saint Agnes move ended great uncertainty.
"When I heard that Saint Agnes Hospital was purchasing the property and possibly working with the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation to develop the field area where Babe learned to play ball, I was thrilled," Gibbons said. "Ruth is the most celebrated athlete in the history of sport, and born right here in Baltimore. So it's imperative that our community continue to preserve and commemorate those places historically associated with one of its most famous native sons."
Additional ideas for the property include recreational community space, an office building and housing for hospital and community residents.
"Saint Agnes is committed to providing a space that brings additional benefits to the community," Greskovich said, "and we expect to continue to engage our neighbors in the months and years ahead to ensure complementary uses of this historical land."
The Yankees may have had Ruth as a Hall of Fame player, but Baltimore will always own first rights to "The Bambino."
Posted March 19, 2012