By Peter DiLutis
Those taking in sporting events in downtown Baltimore frequently pass by two well-known statues as they make their way to an Orioles or Ravens home game. While the Unitas Statue and Babe’s Dream are recognizable to the common fan, many people are not aware of the significance behind these two Baltimore sports landmarks.
Babe’s Dream, a statue designed by sculptor Susan Luery in 1996 that pays homage to Baltimore native Babe Ruth, sits outside the Eutaw Street entrance of Camden Yards. Some Orioles fans, like Jake Kaeding of Abington, Md., often wonder why Babe is honored in Baltimore.
“I love coming to games and the Babe Ruth statue is something that I always notice and look at, but I never really thought about the history surrounding it,” Keading said. “I do know that Babe played for the Red Sox and Yankees and not the Orioles, so I guess I wonder in the back of my mind why Babe Ruth is honored in such a prominent place and not a guy like Jim Palmer or Brooks Robinson.”
Luery disagrees with Jake, believing that Baltimore played an integral role in Babe’s life and baseball career.
“It wasn’t that he didn’t really play there,” Luery said. “He started his career there. The family really grew up there, and he was discovered at the school that he went to in Baltimore. So he did play for Baltimore, it just wasn’t the major team at the time.”
Across the way, the Unitas Statue stands in front of M&T Bank Stadium. Millions of people visit the statue each year, many of them wondering why Unitas’s left foot has faded to a silvery type color. Steve Ash, a host for WBAL and 98 Rock, explains the legend behind Johnny’s faded foot.
“People walk all day long and touch that foot to be sure they get some good luck and some good karma going into M&T Bank Stadium,” Ash said. “It’s wild to watch every Sunday; thousands of people. You can see almost the fingerprints smeared across that wonderful statue and the foot right there at the bottom.”
Steve Melewski, a longtime Baltimore sports journalist who now writes for the Mid-Atlantic Sports Network, believes that Unitas was an ideal fit in a blue-collar Baltimore town.
“Unitas was the perfect star of that era to represent Baltimore,” Melewski said. “He had no ego and never sought out the limelight. He was just tough as nails and unflappable, just as many of the Baltimore fans that idolized him. It says something when Peyton Manning, who never saw him play, wanted to wear high tops to honor him upon his passing.”
Among the myriad of fans who visit Unitas Plaza to honor the late Colts quarterback is a special visitor who knows better than anyone the kind of man Johnny Unitas was.
“Chad Unitas, Johnny’s son, will walk by occasionally, and that’s even more incredible,” Ash said. “You really know you’re in Baltimore then when you see Chad walking by with the same haircut that his dad had for all those years.”
Both of these statues were made to provoke a reaction from the passionate fans that stop to take in one of these Baltimore sports landmarks.
“A statue is supposed to make you feel and react,” Luery said. “The stance and pose of a figure is a narrative. It’s designed to tell a story about the person you are portraying.”
Even Luery, who said she was not a sports fan prior to working on her statue, managed to get caught up in the emotion and history surrounding Babe’s Dream.
“As an artist, creating Babe’s Dream was the experience of a lifetime,” Luery said.