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The day the Babe rocked Oriole Park

It’s April 18, 1919, and Oriole Park is all abuzz. Despite chilly winds, more than 2,000 fans have settled in and are craning their necks to see Babe Ruth, the hometown boy who, at 23, has made it big in the major leagues. Ruth, whose pitching and slugging led the Boston Red Sox to the 1918 world championship, has returned to Baltimore with his club to play two exhibition games against the minor league Orioles, the team that gave him his start in baseball.

The boyish-looking outfielder does not disappoint. This day, Good Friday, Ruth launches four home runs over the right-field fence, monstrous blasts that rock the ballpark.

“Babe just did it so easily that the fence actually appeared to be just about where second base usually is found,” The Sun wrote. “It must be nice to live in the 2000 block of Greenmount Avenue these days, for the kiddies will have all the baseballs they need for the season after the Red Sox leave.”

Boston wins, 12-3, but this day, it’s Ruth’s muscle that makes headlines nationwide, from the Buffalo Enquirer (“Oh, you, Babe!”) to the Salt Lake Herald-Republican (“Ruthless Ruth”). Afterward, asked by reporters how he managed the feat, he grins and says, “It’s a gift.”

The next day, Ruth pitches against the Orioles and allows two hits before leaving the game after four innings. But not before hitting two more homers, one on a pitch at least 3 inches outside. Boston wins, 16-2.

It’s a harbinger for Ruth, who’ll hit a record 29 home runs in 1919. The Orioles? They’ll go 100-49 and win the International League flag.

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com

twitter.com/MikeKlingaman

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