'The wrong glove on the right man'

During the many months of modeling and molding it took to create her 9-foot, 800-pound Babe Ruth in bronze, artist Susan Luery met countless experts and aficionados.

Through her studio they would traipse, bringing ideas and leaving suggestions. Details were researched and debated. Did the Babe wear his belt buckle on the left or right? Was his hat cocked to the side or worn straight?


No fact was too small to escape scrutiny. Except one.

The bronze Babe, unveiled last month at the northern Eutaw Street entrance of Oriole Park, is leaning on a bat and clutching on his hip a right-handed fielder's glove. The real Babe was a lefty.


Batted left. Threw left. Was even called Lefty as a kid.

Oh, sure, there were times at St. Mary's Industrial School for Boys in Baltimore when the young Babe had to make do with a right-handed catcher's mitt. He'd catch the ball, lose the glove and fire to second to throw out a runner.

But there's no record of him using a right-handed fielder's glove, especially in 1914, the time depicted in the statue, when he was a left-handed, rookie pitcher for the International League Orioles.

"I would be very surprised if, when he was a professional, he did that. I'm sure he had the correct mitt," said Robert W. Creamer, author of "Babe: The Legend Comes to Life."

"My instant reaction is: artists!" Mr. Creamer said.

Ms. Luery, who admits to "not being very astute in the fine points of sports," said she worked with a vintage glove sent over by the Babe Ruth Museum. She says she believed the glove was Ruth's, and when she discovered it wasn't, thought the museum had played a joke on her, making her think she had a priceless relic.

Museum director Mike Gibbons said that there was no joke, but that the glove was used in lieu of a real Ruth glove because the Sultan of Swat's equipment is too valuable to lend.

Communication error? "Yes," Mr. Gibbons said. Or, as Ms. Luery artfully puts it: "It was the right glove on the wrong man or the wrong glove on the right man."


Meanwhile, the statue, called "Babe's Dream," grew from a model to a bronze monument in the studio without anyone noticing the mitt.

"They debated the belt loops, the hat, the hose he wore, and everything else. But no one said anything about the glove," said Ms. Luery, a Baltimore artist.

By the time the error was caught, late in the ninth as it were, it was too late.

"It was 9 feet tall and in the foundry and ready to go, and I looked at it and said, 'Oh, well,' " Ms. Luery said.

Mr. Gibbons noted that Ruth probably did use some right-handed gloves as a kid, because a left-handed mitt may have been a luxury among the sandlot set. The museum has such a catcher's mitt -- but no fielder's glove -- in its collection.

That's not to say the museum, which commissioned the statue, intended the bronze Babe to be spending the next century holding a wrong-handed mitt, he said. "Yeah, it's a snafu," Mr. Gibbons said.


But it could hold value, as a curiosity, adding to the mystique. (Ms. Luery agrees, and adds another: She included a secret encryption, BDD, the meaning of which is known only to her, behind the Babe's right ear.)

If it's any consolation to Ruth fans, the error puts the Babe in proud company.

An Edgar Allan Poe monument that stood for many years in Wyman Park misquoted "The Raven," infuriating literature buffs. And descendants of John Mifflin Hood were miffed when the city relocated his statue in 1963, facing him east, the reverse of what the artist intended for the savior of the Western Maryland Railway.

And the base of the George Washington monument in Mount Vernon lists the president's 1789 inauguration as March 4. It was April 30.