Archive for the DBS Blog Category

Finding Poe – Edgar Allan Poe at Fort Moultrie

Sometimes you find history where you least expect it. Or in the case of Edgar Allan Poe and Fort Moultrie, you find a history different than what you expected.

This summer my family spent a week on Isle of Palms, one of South Carolina’s barrier islands. On one of the many rain filled days, we visited Fort Moultrie, located just a few miles away on Sullivan’s Island, hoping for an afternoon of Civil War history. Headed southwest down Middle Street we passed Poe’s Tavern, it’s sign adorned with a Raven. I thought about stopping for lunch there, but the line was out the door.

Another sign directing visitors to Edgar Allan Poe Library left me wondering why the fascination with the American literary great on such a quaint, out of the way spot at the northern entrance to Charleston Harbor. Having never read Poe’s short story The Gold-Bug, which I was to learn is set in Sullivan’s Island, I was unaware the island had a legitimate claim to Mr. Poe.

The National Park Service now runs Fort Moultrie, its cannons long silenced. As it turns out, for 13 months Mr. Poe was a resident of Fort Moultrie and, by his association with the Army, Sullivan’s Island.

Entrance to Fort Moultrie, Sullivan's Island

According to the National Park Service Brochure I picked up at the visitors center, Poe enrolled in the University of Virginia in 1826, but dropped out that same year having accumulated some $2,500 in gambling debts. He enlisted in the Army the following year, using  the assumed name of Edgar A. Perry. In October 1827 he was assigned to Fort Moultrie.

View of Fort Moultrie Looking West

Fort Moultrie is one of several forts that line the South Carolina shoreline. Fort Sumter sits at the entrance to Charleston Harbor, less than a mile southwest of Fort Moultrie.

Fort Sumter, South Carolina, As Seen From Fort Moultrie

During his time in the Army, Poe was assigned to Battery H and attained the rank of Regimental Sergeant-Major.

A Smoothbore Cannon, The Type Edgar Allan Poe May Have Used

While at Fort Moultrie, Poe lived in barracks constructed in 1809. All that remains now of the barracks is their long rectangular foundation. The barracks were razed by Confederate soldiers in 1863 out of fear that they might be hit by shells, thus presenting the danger of flying debris.

Foundation of 1809 Barracks at Fort Moultrie, Where Edgar Allan Poe Once Lived

One building that remains from Poe’s time at Fort Moultrie is the powder magazine.

Powder Magazine at Fort Moultrie

Also remaining is a traverse built in 1820. The traverse is made of solid brick and protects the powder magazine from enemy projectiles.

Fort Moultrie Traverse, Meant to Protect Powder Magazine

A wine cellar, built within the lower inner parade ground in 1809, also remains. During the Civil War, the cellar took a direct hit from Union artillery.

Fort Moultrie Wine Cellar

Having learned of Poe’s connection to Sullivan’s Island, I purchased in the visitors center a copy of the Gold-Bug & Other Tales, which I can now say I have read. According to island legend, a tulip tree mentioned by Poe in The Gold-Bug sits only two miles east of Fort Moultrie, at the intersection of Goldbug Avenue and Station 27 Street. On my next visit to Sullivan’s Island I will be sure to take a picture of that tree and hopefully stop for a drink at Poe’s Tavern, assuming I get there early enough.

A Deadball Moment – Cy Young Returns To Peoli

Many thanks to Gary Brown for a true Deadball moment. By way of background . . .

In 2006, I stopped with my family in Newcomerstown, Ohio. Because of Cy Young’s connections to that town, I visited the Temperance Tavern Museum. It was there that I learned Cy Young’s former house may or may not still be standing in nearby Peoli, Ohio. Because the rest of my family expressed little interest in spending a few hours trying to track down Cy Young’s former home, it was left for another day for me to go in search of the house. That day came in 2009 when I returned to Peoli in search of Cy Young’s former home. Long story short, I found the house.

My trips to Newcomerstown and Peoli were background for a chapter in my book  Deadball, A Metaphysical Baseball Novel, whereby Byron Bennett heads to Newcomerstown in search of Cy Young and ends up finding both his former house and the cemetery where he is interred.

This summer, I received an email from Gary Brown who had seen my posts about Newcomerstown and Cy Young’s house. Mr. Brown informed me he had unearthed a previously unknown photograph of Cy Young taken in front of his house in Peoli and asked if I would be interested in it. Long story short, I was.  Without further adieu, here is the picture:

On the back of the photograph is the name Harold E. Thomas, whom Mr. Brown believes is the person to the left of Cy Young in the photograph. Also in the photo is a collie, sitting at the feet of Mr. Young. When I visited the Temperance Tavern Museum in 2006, one of our tour guides told us that people used to stop by Cy Young’s house for a visit and whenever someone took out a camera to take a photograph of Mr. Young, his dog would come running up and pose for the picture as well.

To have found a photograph of Mr. Young, posing with his dog and a visitor in Peoli, Ohio, was truly a Deadball moment. Thank you Mr. Brown.

Greetings and Readings This Saturday from 1-3

Greetings and Readings

I’ll be signing copies of Deadball, A Metaphysical Baseball Novel, at Greetings and Readings this Saturday July 13th from 1 until 3 pm. Greetings and Readings is located in Hunt Valley and is Baltimore’s largest independent book store. They stock plenty of Orioles and Ravens memorabilia as well. Hope to see you there.

Here’s the link to Greetings and Readings Website.

The Goddess “Gentlemen’s Club” – The Bar That Ruth Bought

Chances are most baseball fans who park north of Camden Yards in the garages on Eutaw Street do not know the historical significance of the building they pass just before crossing Lombard Street on the way towards Camden Yards. That building, which currently houses The Goddess, a self-proclaimed “Gentlemen’s Club,” was once owned by Babe Ruth, and the sidewalk outside the building is where Ruth’s father died after injuries he sustained while trying to break up a brawl.

The Goddess Gentleman's Club

The Goddess Gentlemen’s Club

“The past exists all around us, you just have to know where to look.” This has been my motto for years and is one of the themes running through my book Deadball, A Metaphysical Baseball Novel. Babe Ruth’s ties to Maryland are a good example of this theme, from the house where he was born, to the orphanage and baseball field where he grew up, to the Catholic church where he was married. Other places tied to the Babe, while equally notable, are a little more difficult to detect, such as the home field where he played for the International League Baltimore Orioles, which is now a McDonald’s restaurant.

Goddess Gentleman's Club With Camden Yards Scoreboard in Background

Goddess Gentlemen’s Club With Camden Yards Scoreboard in Background

The same is true for the three-story building located at  38 South Eutaw Street. In 1915, Ruth’s Boston Red Sox won the World Series and legend has it that Ruth took part of his World Series earnings and purchased the building as a bar for his father, which became known as “Ruth’s Cafe.” Babe Ruth and his wife Helen lived above the bar on the second floor of the building during that following winter.

The Goddess, Located Across the Street from the Bromo Seltzer Tower

The only known photograph of the Babe and his father was taken inside the building in December 1915. Babe is seen standing behind the bar in the center of the photograph while his father, dressed in the same bartenders attire, is standing to the right. It being the Christmas season, the bar is decorated with ornaments and tinsel.

Ruth and His Father (Photograph by Vincent Velzis)

Just two plus years after Ruth purchased the building, tragedy struck as Ruth’s father died in the street outside the building. The brawl he tried to break up is said to have involved one of his relatives.

The Mean Streets of Baltimore – Where Babe Ruth’s Father Died

Ruth’s Cafe on Eutaw Street should not be confused with another establishment of the same name which Ruth’s father ran on West Conway Street.   Prior to the construction of Camden Yards, Conway Street street ran northeast across what is now home plate, through the pitcher’s mound and second base, and across center field towards the green batters eye behind center field.

The memory of Ruth’s Cafe is honored at Oriole Park’s Budweiser Patio on Eutaw Street.

Budweiser Patio on Eutaw Street, with Plaque Honoring Babe Ruth

A plaque on the side of the Budweiser Patio honors Babe Ruth. It was erected by the “Old Timer’s Baseball Association of Maryland” although its age and appearance suggest it was relocated from another venue.

Babe Ruth Plaque at Camden Yards

The sign next to the Babe Ruth plaque relates a short history of the Ruth’s Cafe on Conway Street.

Camden Yard Sign Noting History of Conway Street Pub

A section of West Conway Street remains just southwest of Oriole Park and a sign for the street is located on Russell Street across from the main ballpark entrance at  Schaefer Circle.

Intersection of West Conway Street and Russell Street

When the State of Maryland excavated the area during construction of Camden Yards, bricks from the building at 406 West Conway Street were unearthed and one is now on display at the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum.

Center Field at Camden Yards, Former Location of Babe’s Cafe

Yes, the past is all around us. We just need to know where to look. Should you find yourself making your way down Eutaw Street on the way to Camden Yards, be sure to stop at the Goddess and take a moment to appreciate it’s historical significance. Of course, it being a strip club, I will leave it to you to decide whether the building is better appreciated from the outside, as opposed to from inside the establishment.

The 1890’s National League Baltimore Orioles As Seen Through The Sporting Life

Union Park and the National League Baltimore Orioles of the 1890’s play a prominent role in my book Deadball, A Metaphysical Baseball Novel, and it is not often that I come across artifacts from the team or that era. When I do, they typically are way out of my price range. But as luck would have it, I was able to purchase at auction recently four copies of the Sporting Life that feature the 1890’s National League Baltimore Orioles on the front cover, as well as a page out of Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper featuring a preview of the Orioles and the New York Giants in the Temple Cup.

The Leslie’s newspaper page is extraordinary for it’s pictorial history of early baseball star including Orioles Hall of Famers Dan Brouthers, Hughie Jennings, Wilbert Robinson, Willie Keeler, John McGraw, Ned Hanlon, plus several New York Giants who appear in the team photo including John Ward, Amos Rusie, and Roger Connor.

1894 Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper

The Orioles won the National League pennant in 1894, the first year of a dynasty that would last almost until the team’s demise at the end of the century. The Orioles won three consecutive pennants from 1894-1896. This is reflected in the October 3, 1896, Sporting Life below depicting a Baltimore Oriole player standing next to Uncle Sam on top of the world with the inscription “the world is mine.”

October 3, 1896 Sporting Life

The 1897 season saw a turn of fortune for the Orioles, who lost the pennant to the Boston Beaneaters by two games that year (they came in second behind the Boston Beaneaters in 1898 as well). The May 18, 1897, Sporting Life foreshadows the Orioles fall from the top of the world that season, with a depiction of Uncle Sam presenting a Baltimore baseball player a letter that reads, “Uncle Sam – Some of the other clubs want the pennant this year. Respectfully yours: Uncle Nick.” The caption at the bottom of the page states: “Uncle Sam – Well son, what are you going to do about it.”

May 18, 1897 Sporting Life

The 1899 season would be the last for the National League Baltimore Orioles. The July 15, 1899, Sporting Life depicts Orioles Player/Manager John McGraw, who is said in the caption to be “The brilliant player and capable manager of Baltimore.” Although McGraw would remain in Baltimore as player/manager of the American League Orioles in their inaugural 1901 season and part of the 1902 season, McGraw would move to New York to manage the Giants towards the end of the 1902 season. It was in New York where McGraw achieved his most notable fame, where he is recognized as one of the greatest managers of all time.

July 15, 1899 Sporting Life Featuring John McGraw

On February 24, 1900, when the Sporting Life below was issued, Willie Keeler was still identified as an outfielder for Baltimore, however, by then he had been playing for the Brooklyn Superbas since 1899, alongside fellow former Orioles Joe Kelley, Aleck Smith, and Hughie Jennings. Additional former Orioles Harry Howell, Frank Kitson, Joe McGinnity, Jerry Nops, Gene DeMontreville, and Jimmy Sheckard joined Brooklyn after the 1899 season.

February 24, 1900 Sporting Life Featuring Willie Keeler

Of course it helped that the former owner of the National League Baltimore franchise, Harry Von Der Horst, also owned the Brooklyn franchise, back in the days of syndicate baseball. The Superbas would win the pennant in 1899 and 1900 thanks in part to the contribution of the old Orioles, including former Orioles Manager Ned Hanlon who joined the Superbas at the helm in 1899.

Damp But Not Dampened – Fun at the Gaithersburg Book Festival

Tent of Exhibiting Authors - Gaithersburg Book Festival

The weather wasn’t great, but that did not keep people from turning out in record numbers (18,000 strong)  for the fourth annual Gaithersburg Book Festival on Saturday May 18th. I was one of many authors who inhabited the “Hall of Exhibiting Authors.” Okay, it was actually the “Tent of Exhibiting Authors.” But I’m not complaining. Everyone was in good spirits because the rain held off, giving us a chance to chat up festival goers in hopes of selling a book or two.

My spot in the tent (space HA-32, to be exact) was directly across from the  Gertrude Stein Pavilion. What an honor to be so close to literary greatness. Unfortunately, Ms. Stein was a no show, as was Rachel Carson who failed to appear at the pavilion named in her honor. I did have a chance to mingle with still living, future literary greats, however, including Nadia Kim (Reflection, Love Curse) who was selling books at the table to my left, and Raven A. Nuckols (Had The Queen Lived: An Alternative History of Anne Boleyn) who shared a table to my right.  Although Ms. Stein and Ms. Carson may not have made it, Jimmie Walker of Good Times fame spent a considerable amount of time at Nadia’s table, which she shared with author John Debellis (Stand Up Guys:  A Generation of Laughs). Mr. Walker was at the festival selling copies of his book Dyn-O-Mite!: Good Times, Bad Times, Our Times, and graciously took time to talk to everyone who sought him out.

Many thanks to Nadia for including me in her blog Secret Tips To Writing Novels and Sylvia Carignan of the Gazette Newspapers for mentioning me in her article about the festival. Thanks also to Steve Quinn (the publisher at Huntington Park) for stopping by, and author Paul Dickson for the shout out during the Baseball and Society discussion.

Gaithersburg Book Festival This Weekend

The Gaithersburg Book Festival celebrates its fourth year this Saturday, May 18th. I will be in the “Hall of Exhibiting Authors Tent A”  (space HA-32, to be exact) across from the Politics and Prose tent, where I  hopefully will be selling and signing many copies of my book Deadball, A Metaphysical Baseball Novel. This is my second year attending the festival.

Held on the Gaithersburg City Hall Grounds in Old Town Gaithersburg, the festival runs from 10 am to 6 pm. The festival attracts  many nationally known authors, and many nationally unknown authors like yours truly, and has grown each year since its inception in 2010, becoming one of the nation’s top literary events. If you love books, you really should plan to attend the Gaithersburg Book Festival this Saturday. And if you do, please stop by and say “hello,” or at least wave as you walk by.

Ellicott City’s St. Paul’s Catholic Church – Where Babe Ruth Got Married

Babe Ruth spent the majority of his formative years as a ward of St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, an orphanage and reform school run by the Archdiocese of Baltimore. His parents signed him over to the Xaverian Brothers out of desperation when he was just eight or nine years old. In 1914, Ruth left St. Mary’s to begin his professional baseball career, playing first for the International League Baltimore Orioles, before being sold to the Boston Red Sox organization. He made his major league debut in July of that year and ended the season with the International League Providence Grays.

1914 Baltimore News Babe Ruth Rookie Card

While in Boston, Ruth fell in love with Helen Woodford, a waitress he had met at a local diner. Once the baseball season was over, Ruth returned to Baltimore with Woodford. Ruth asked and received permission from his father to get married. On October 14, 1914, Ruth and Woodford were married at St. Paul’s Catholic Church in Ellicott City, Maryland, located about 12 miles west of downtown Baltimore.

St. Paul’s Catholic Church, Located at 3755 St. Paul Street in Ellicott City, Maryland

Ellicott City was named after brothers Andrew and John Ellicott, who founded Ellicott Mills along the banks of the Patapsco River in the 1770’s.  In the 1800’s the town grew to be a prosperous mill town, one of the largest in the state.

View of St. Paul’s Catholic Church from St. Paul Street

In 1838, the Archdiocese of Baltimore constructed St. Paul’s Church on land purchased from the Ellicott family. At the time of its construction, St. Paul’s was the only Catholic Church located in Maryland between Baltimore and Frederick. St. Paul’s is perched on a hill overlooking Main Street. A tall, grey granite steeple at the front of the building offers entry to the church on three sides. Ornamental rose windows adorn the steeple above the three separate entrances, each with a set of green painted doors.

Interior of St. Paul’s Catholic Church, Where Babe Ruth Married his First Wife Helen

Although much of the church building on the outside appears as it did at the time Ruth was married there, an addition to the front of the church expanded the area housing the altar and the tabernacle.

St. Paul’s Catholic Church Nave.

During their wedding ceremony, Babe and Helen Ruth stood just in front of the first row of pews.

Detail of a Rose Window Over One of the Front Doors of St. Paul’s Church

The couple was married in a simple ceremony by Father Thomas Dolan. The only people in attendance other than the priest and the young couple were two members of the Church, one being Father Dolan’s sister.

Side Entrance to St. Paul’s Church from the East

After the wedding, the newlyweds lived for the winter in Baltimore, above a tavern operated by Babe Ruth’s father on Conway Street, which now is center field at Oriole Park (not to be confused with a second Ruth bar (now known as the Goddess Gentlemen’s Club)).

Staircase on Which the Fictional Byron Bennett Was Sitting When He Saw Babe and Helen Ruth Exit St. Paul’s Church

In my book Deadball, A Metaphysical Baseball Novel, the protagonist, Byron Bennett, recounts an episode that happened to him when, as a boy, he paid a visit to St. Paul’s Church:

“Byron and (his dog) Miss Tree climbed up the 20 worn, granite steps – Byron counted each one – which led from the sidewalk to the church’s east entrance, and took seats on the top step. While Byron was watching a train approach the B&O Railroad station that bordered the city’s east side, the church doors burst open behind him and a young couple appeared, arm in arm, smiling and laughing.”

Doors From Babe and Helen Ruth Would Have Exited St. Paul’s Church

“The sound of a pipe organ playing Mendelssohn’s “Wedding March” emanated from inside the church. The commotion startled Miss Tree and she began barking. Byron scooted to the side of the step, pulling Miss Tree along with him, and put his hands around her mouth in a failed attempt to silence her.”

Entrance to St. Paul’s Catholic Church Looking West Toward B&O Railroad Station

“Byron looked up at the couple as they passed. The groom towered over him, dwarfing his small frame. With his thick lips, wide nose, and olive complexion, the man looked like a young Babe Ruth. . . . Byron waved to the couple as they descended the steps. The groom turned around and gave him a wink. Miss Tree continued barking. In the small parking lot at the base of the church steps there appeared a Packard S-38 touring car with thick white-wall tires and an open roof. Byron watched as the happy couple slid into the back seat and the car roared out of the parking lot, disappearing as if evaporating into the air before it reached Main Street.”

West Entrance to St. Paul’s Church

“After staring for a moment in disbelief, he stood up, still confused as to what he had seen, and looked down at Miss Tree, who appeared equally confused. ‘Did you see that?’ Byron asked his attentive companion. Byron walked over to the church entrance, pulling several times on its worn, cylinder-shaped brass door handles, but they were locked. He knocked, but no one answered. Abandoning the doors facing east, Byron ran down the 20 granite steps, past the entrance to the church basement, around to the other side of the steeple, and up another 21 granite steps – he counted each one – to the doors facing west. Miss Tree followed suit, barking all the way. Byron pulled on the handles, but those doors were locked as well.”

St. Paul’s Catholic Church and Rectory

If you are a fan of the game and you find yourself in or near Ellicott City, be sure to stop by St. Paul’s Church to see where Babe Ruth got married. Although there is no guarantee that you too will encounter the Babe during your visit, you will get a sense of the man, for his legend lives large in Ellicott City, just as it does in Baltimore, Boston, and New York. And, in case you were wondering about Byron’s dog, his name is a tribute to the day Miss Tree, a stray, first showed up at Byron’s house. Byron’s parents tried without success to locate the dog’s owner and, unable to solve the mystery, named her as such and let Byron keep her. Byron, then a small boy, pronounced her name with two, not three, syllables.

At the Smithsonian with Author Paul Dickson

Authors Paul Dickson and David Stinson at the Smithsonian's American History Museum

Thanks to everyone who came by to talk baseball this past Saturday April 6th at the Smithsonian’s Museum of American History. I was there with Paul Dickson, author of the award winning Bill Veeck, Baseball’s Greatest Maverick.We had a joint book signing outside the gift shop on the second floor.

Mr. Dickson is a man of many talents and I enjoyed talking baseball with him along with discussing many of the other topics he has written about during his extensive career – 65 published books and counting. Me? I have two, but who’s counting?

If you have not done so yet, and are a fan of the game, be sure to pick up a copy of his biography about Bill Veeck – perhaps soon to be a major motion picture!

Field of Dreams and A Worthy Cause – April 14th

Come see Field of Dreams on the big screen at the historic AFI Silver Theater on Sunday April 14, 2013, as part of Shepherd’s Table’s 30th Anniversary celebration. “If We Build It They Will Come” celebrates Shepherd Table’s 30 years of service in our community, helping those who are homeless or in need by providing basic services, including meals, social services, medical support, clothing, and other assistance in an effective and compassionate manner.

The event begins at noon with a silent auction, scrumptious food, wine, beer, water, sodas and great music. The program begins at 1:55 p.m. and the movie, Field of Dreams, begins at 2:30 p.m. Tickets for the event are only $50, well worth it, and for a good cause ($30 for Shepherd’s Table volunteers).

I am honored to be there, selling and signing copies of my book Deadball, A Metaphysical Baseball Novel, with proceeds going to Shepherd’s Table. I hope to see you there.