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Essex man chosen for Japanese film on Ruth PINCH-HITTER


Six-foot-one, 220 pounds, size 38 waist. With numbers like that, 19-year-old Erik Crown would easily pass for a teen-age Babe Ruth before an audience of millions of Japanese children.

"This is it," he said, hefting his belly over his belt. "My casting agent."

But before the camera ever got rolling yesterday at the Essex Community College baseball diamond, the Severna Park teen-ager was benched by a Japanese television crew. The Babe, remember, was a lefty at the plate and on the mound. Alas, Erik Crown isn't.

The crew from Tokyo's NHK-TV, in town this week to shoot a Far East version of the fable known to first-graders from sea to shining sea as "The Babe Ruth Story," took this setback in stride.

After all, they'd contended with the language barrier while dealing with children two days before at the Cardinal Gibbons School, which stood in for St. Mary's Industrial School -- where Ruth grew up after being separated from his parents.

George Jones, a southpaw on hand to play the umpire in the scene, would be the young Bambino. Never mind that he is 38, with a mustache and shoulder-length hair in the back. Just slip into the wool, turn-of-the-century uniform, tuck the hair up under the cap and take a shave. "I've had this mustache 22 years," the Essex man said as the whiskers started falling. "Aww, man. I feel naked."

He also felt chubby. Project coordinator Reiko Ito offered him a towel to put under his shirt, but when Mr. Jones gave her a side view of his, ahem, physique, Ms. Ito said, "OK. Never mind."

The taping was for a weekly Japanese national television children's documentary with the title, loosely translated, "Dashing Life Stories." The three-man Japanese crew came to Baltimore from Atlanta, where it had taped scenes for a segment on the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The crew shot Tuesday at the Babe Ruth Museum and is scheduled to shoot simulated baseball action again today at Essex Community College.

Friday the visitors will go to Zion Church of Baltimore City near City Hall to shoot the scene of young George Herman Ruth being dropped off at St. Mary's. Saturday they'll visit a private, Victorian house in the city to re-create the slugger's legendary promise to hit a home run for an ailing boy.

Sunday at Dave's Pub, a downtown bar, they will tape a scene of the over-indulging Babe, "just to show sometimes he lost control of himself and couldn't play well," said director Naohisa Yoshida, speaking through Kamran Tsuchiya, a journalism student who acted as translator.

Monday they're off to Yankee Stadium in New York, but they'll returnTuesday for scenes inside an old-fashioned railroad car at the B&O; Railroad Museum.

Mr. Yoshida said he chose to do a show on the famed slugger because of baseball's popularity in Japan, and "to show the children how Babe Ruth was, and even if you have a hard life you can improve it."

Like most Americans, the Japanese director said he learned of Ruth as a first-grader. "If it's baseball, it's Babe Ruth," he said. He also recalled a goodwill tour to Japan by a modern baseball powerhouse team, the 1971 Baltimore Orioles. "There was a player called Robinson and he was a big fan of him," Mr. Tsuchiya, the translator, said, while the director showed he knows of at least one current Orioles star.

rTC "Ripken," Mr. Yoshida said. "Ripken."

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