With the tossing of the first pitch, the Babe Ruth museum in Baltimore is scheduled to reopen next month after a major four-month renovation that is giving it 22 new exhibits, a broadened theme and a new name, the Babe Ruth Birthplace/Maryland Baseball Hall of Fame.
While continuing to honor Ruth's memoray, the brick rowhouse house where Ruth spent his boyhood years is expanding to become a Baltimore Orioles museum as well as a facility to preserve and display the state's rich baseball heritage. The idea is to tell the continuing story of Maryland baseball before, during and after the Babe's great career.
"It will be a living museum, changing all the time," says Michael Gibbons, project director for the expansion, who is adding video displays and other modern museum techniques (with help from the Smithsonian) to what is becoming one of baseball's first regional halls of fame.
Fans will be able to see personal effects of baseball's most-famous hero; Ruth's uniform, a collection of bats, his travel kit, a well-stickered suitcase and even the kimono he wore on a tour to Japan. But there also will be films, slide shows and photo displays of his life on and off the field.
Simiarly, the Orioles room will feature such familiar items as the cap former manager Earl Weaver wore at his final game last year, uniforms, bats and balls as well as a video room tracing the last 30 years of baseball, in which the Orioles play a prominant role. Another display centers on the team's own seven-member hall of fame.
A life-size, computer-controlled moving and speaking figure of Ruth will welcome visitors to the third major exhibit, the Maryland Hall of Fame. Six native Marylanders, including the Babe, have been inducted into the national Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., and mementos of their careers will be displayed. Visitors will even find a single-stich baseball dating back to the 1860s and probably the oldest baseball in Maryland. Passed down in a Baltimore family, it most recently rested in the attic of a surviving heir.
Other exhibits will feature tributes to the Baltimore fans, prominant sportscasters and sports writers, amateur leagues and the early black teams. Enlarged photos of the eight or nine stadiums that have served the city will trace baseball's 100-year-old history in Baltimore.
The three-story building at 216 Emory St. was the Ruth homestead when he was born Feb. 6, 1895, and the family lived there for another seven years. In 1967, the building was saved from demolition and, along with three connecting townhouses, dedicated as the Babe Ruth Birthplace Shrine and Museum in 1974. The museum, about a half-dozen blocks from Baltimore's bustling Inner Harbor, is expected to become a popular attraction for city sighseers.
After dedication ceremonies in mid-April, the museum will be open ever day except Wednesday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. with admission set at $2.50 for adults and $1.25 for children 12 and under.
A $164,000 fund-raising drive for the renovation is currently under way, and about one-third of the sum has been received. Fans have a variety of ways to contribute, including the purchase of one of the Babe's 714 home runs. For $200, your name or the name of someone you designate is placed on one of 714 commemorative plaques to be hung in the museum.
For more information: Babe Ruth Birthplace Foundation, 216 Emory St., Baltimore, Md. 21230 or (301) 727-1539. PENNY -- PINCHER'S EUROPE: No sense in wasting money if your trip can be just an enjoyable for less. In its "Budget Travel Tips" brochure, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has compiled a practice guide to saving dollars abroad:
* Plan in advance. You have a better chance at the cheaper airfares and the inexpensive hotels that tend to fill up fast. And watch for money-saving packages.
* Contact the national tourist office.Many offer free guides and maps and provide other useful information, such as a list of festivals and other free attractions. When you arrive; visit local tourist offices as a source for other bargains.
* Go in the off season. In may and September, the weather is fine, the crowds are thin and prices are down.
* Get out of the big cities. Accommodations are cheaper in the countryside, and there is much to see.
* Travel as the Europeans do. Take trains and find a hotel near the station. It saves on taxis and tips. If you do rent a car, choose the smallest model. Gas is expensive.
* Use buses, subways and streetcars in the cities. Easier than driving and cheaper than taxis.
* Pick a hotel without the frills. You don't really need a big lobby or a phone in the room. Take a room with private bath only every other night. Skip room service.
* Stick to wine and beer. They are much cheaper than whiskey and cocktails.
* Eat a big breakfast, if it's included in the cost of a room. It's a good idea even if you normally skip breakfast a home. You will spend less at lunch.
* Exchange money at banks. It will cost you more at shops, hotels and restaurants.
* Avoid the hotel laundry. Wash your own drips drys or find a laundermat.
* Watch the incidentals. Carry your own luggage to avoid tips; walk instead of ride when you can; pack sufficient toiletries to avoid buying abroad; use free postcards from your hotel.
GINGERBREAD HOLIDAY: The stately Victorian homes of Cape May, N.J., make an attractive backdrop to the Atlantic Ocean in this oldest of America's seashore resorts, a National Historic Landmark Site. This year, the city has put together a free 78-page pamphlet promoting its tourist facilities. Heavy with ads for inns, restaurants and shops, it also includes self-guided tours, a map, upcoming events and a short history of the community.