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2.5 Minutes with Mike Gibbons, Executive Director, Sports Legends Museum

Baltimore Business Journal
February 29, 2008

By Ryan Sharrow

Mike Gibbons has always been a baseball fan. But Gibbons never imagined he'd one day become a historian of legendary slugger Babe Ruth. The Baltimore native has been executive director of the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum on Emory Street in downtown Baltimore since 1983. Now, 25 years later, he still oversees the row home where Ruth was born, as well as the Sports Legends Museum at Camden Yards. Under Gibbons' tenure, the museums have grown from 100 to 10,000 artifacts on both Ruth and Maryland sports.

What's your most memorable local sports moment?
There are two actually. I went to the very first game the Baltimore Orioles played in the American League on April 15, 1954, at Memorial Stadium. My father took me. I remember walking out on the ramp and looking at the green grass and it was a stunning moment. The other was the 1959 Baltimore Colts championship game versus the [New York] Giants. The only NFL championship game ever played in Baltimore on December 27, 1959. I had never heard a sound like I heard when Johnny Unitas was introduced. It was deafening.

Would you rather watch a sporting event in person or on TV, and why?
I'd rather go to the game. If I'm at home watching on TV and the game is close and may be we have a big lead and they start to lose the lead, I can't watch. I have to get up and go stand in the driveway. I feel like I don't have control. When I'm at the ballpark, the mutual paranoia that runs around the ballpark when your team is in trouble is easier to digest.

What's your favorite piece of memorabilia between the two museums?
In the Birthplace, we have a bat that was used by Shoeless Joe Jackson. One [game] he got together with Babe Ruth and said "Hey Babe, use my bat." As far as I know it's the only bat ever used by Shoeless Joe and the Babe in a game. In Sports Legends we have the game ball from the 1958 championship game from the Colts.

What have you learned from being a Babe Ruth historian?
With the exception of Babe Ruth, fame is fleeting. Ruth is the ultimate exception. He has transcended sports to become an American cultural icon. There are only a couple: Marilyn Monroe, John F. Kennedy, Abe Lincoln. But the list is short.

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