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The ultimate baseball road trip

   Fenway Park in Boston is one of the road trip stops.

(This is the first half of a two-part series. See part two of the ultimate baseball road trip.)

Baseball season is heating up, and so is the summer road trip season. So why not combine these two American passions and plan the ultimate baseball road trip? Not just a jaunt to see a few games and stadiums, but a journey that enables you to explore the history of the sport between games at some of the country’s most cherished ballparks.

In honor of Tuesday’s Major League Baseball All-Star game, I’ve put together a two-part road trip. These journeys can be done separately, or you can stitch them together into a mega-road trip through the history of baseball. Today, we begin with a trek through the Northeast, where we’ll visit sites that shed light on baseball’s early history and take us into the heart of some of the sport’s most passionate fan bases.

Baltimore, Maryland: Babe Ruth, Cal Ripken and Camden Yards

If you have extra time on your hands for this trip, you can just as easily begin in Washington, D.C., which is only an hour away, and perhaps take in a Nationals game at their new park. But there is more baseball history in Baltimore, beginning at the Babe Ruth Birthplace Museum. Ruth was born in 1895 at 216 Emory Street, not far from what is now Oriole Park at Camden Yards. In fact, Ruth’s father operated a saloon at the spot where center field is now located. Ruth’s birthplace is a museum that traces his life and career. The nearby Sports Legends Museum features the Orioles and other Baltimore teams.

You’ll also want to take in a game at beautiful Camden Yards. A trendsetter when it was built in 1992, Oriole Park at Camden Yards was the first of the new stadiums to pay homage to the old ballparks. The brick facade and the view of the Baltimore skyline make for a classic seating experience, and you can watch the game while dining on Maryland crab cakes.

Before leaving Maryland, you should stop at the Ripken Museum in Aberdeen, just 30 miles northeast of Baltimore. Aberdeen is the hometown of Cal Ripken and the museum is chock full of baseball memorabilia, from the Ripken clan’s Little League days all the way through Cal’s record-breaking consecutive games streak. It’s a family-oriented museum that honors character and perseverance in sports.

New York and New Jersey: The Yankees and the first baseball games

If your schedule permits and if the Phillies are in town, consider heading next to Philadelphia for a ballgame. The City of Brotherly Love is less than 90 minutes up I-95 from Aberdeen. Otherwise, it’s a three-hour drive to one of the hotbeds of professional baseball: New York City and Yankee Stadium.

This is no longer the eight-decade-old House that Ruth Built, but a brand new $1 billion upgrade that opened this season. Many of the characteristics of the old stadium were retained, including the Monument Park tribute to past Yankee greats. You’ll want to schedule your tour to coincide with a Yankees home game, but if that isn’t possible you can still take a guided tour of the stadium. While in New York, you can also catch a Mets game at their own new ballpark, Citi Field.

If you’re a baseball history aficionado, there are plenty of sites to keep you occupied in the New York-New Jersey area. Interested in seeing where the first baseball games were played? Head over to Madison Square Park, where Alexander Cartwright formed the New York Knickerbockers ballclub in 1845 and set down the game’s earliest official rules, such as 90-foot basepaths laid out in a diamond shape. Then cross the Hudson River to Hoboken, New Jersey, where on June 19, 1846, the first official game was played at Elysian Fields between the Knickerbockers and the New York Nine. Today, a plaque records the spot of the first contest.

Then drive over to nearby Montclair, New Jersey, and pay a visit to the Yogi Berra Museum, where you can ogle Yogi’s 10 World Series rings and other memorabilia. If you’re still raring to go, you can visit the former sites of Ebbets Field and the Polo Grounds, where the Dodgers and Giants played before relocating to California in the 1950s. You’ll only see apartment complexes and a plaque where the stadiums once stood, but some fans will appreciate the history. You can see the plaque for the Polo Grounds at 2999 8th Avenue, across the river from Yankee Stadium, and Ebbets Field is at 1720 Bedford Avenue, Brooklyn.

Boston, Massachusetts: The Red Sox and the first World Series

Less than four hours up the road is another city that likes its baseball with a shot of passion: Boston. The highlight of this stop is Fenway Park, one of the most storied parks in the country. The home of the Red Sox since 1912, the stadium has been called a baseball shrine and is known for its quirky features and irregularities, most notably the Green Monster in left field. You can also add to your Fenway experience by taking a one-hour tour of the park.

Avid fans will find a lot of other baseball history to enjoy in Boston. A must-see stop is on the campus of Northeastern University. This was the site of Huntington Avenue Grounds, which hosted four games in baseball’s first World Series in 1903, won by Boston over the Pittsburgh Pirates. Today, in a small park behind Northeastern’s Cabot Physical Education Center, there is a statue of baseball legend Cy Young at the spot where the pitcher’s mound was once located. Young’s statue peers down at a plaque shaped like home plate, 60 feet away.

Although there are no other historical markers, this whole area of town used to be a hotbed of Boston baseball. The South End Grounds were located just a few minutes walk south, over the pedestrian bridge that leads to Columbus Avenue and the Carter Playground. This was the first home of the Boston Braves, who several decades later moved to Milwaukee and then to Atlanta. From 1915 to 1952, the team played at Braves Field, part of which still exists as Nickerson Field on the campus of Boston University.

If you’re in Massachusetts between June and August, you may want to take a side trip to Cape Cod, where you can not only enjoy a break at the beach but also see the Cape Cod Baseball League. Many of the nation’s best college players compete here every summer. Otherwise, it’s on to the next stop.

Cooperstown, New York: The National Baseball Hall of Fame

Yes,  the hallowed grounds of the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Every fan should make a pilgrimage here at least once. Located in the lovely village of Cooperstown, the Hall of Fame possesses more than 35,000 baseball items of historical value, including bats, balls, uniforms and trophies, along with 500,000 photos, 130,000 baseball cards, and 12,000 hours of video footage.

Above all, though, this is a place where generations of baseball fans are awed by the chance to wander through the Hall of Fame gallery that enshrines more than 200 of the game’s greatest players and by the three floors of space that provide ever-changing exhibits on the history of the game. Don’t miss nearby Doubleday Field, where legend has it that baseball was invented and where the annual Hall of Fame game is played every summer.

Williamsport, Pennsylvania: Home of the Little League World Series

You may now be ready to return to your starting point, or you may want to continue on to part two of the ultimate baseball road trip. Either way, you can easily plot your journey to take you through Williamsport, Pennsylvania. You won’t see any professional contests there, but it’s a great opportunity to delve into that most American of traditions: Little League baseball.

If you can get there in late August for the Little League World Series, enjoy the carnival-like atmosphere as thousands of fans cheer on the best young ballplayers in the world. But at any time of year you’ll enjoy a visit to the Little League Museum, where there are exhibits about the history of Little League baseball and a Hall of Excellence that pays tribute to dozens of famous Little League graduates. If you visit with your children, they’ll be able to enjoy interactive exhibits that allow them to practice hitting and pitching.

From Williamsport, it’s a three-hour drive back to Baltimore, where we began this tour. Or, you can get on I-80 and head west, where we’ll soon pick up the second half of our journey into American baseball.

Map and directions

Here is a map of this road trip. If you click on the "Ultimate baseball road trip" link, it will take you to a larger map and more detailed information about the journey.

View Ultimate baseball road trip (part one) in a larger map


You might also enjoy these road trip stories:

 Photo credit: Bob Riel

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