Mary Valle: It seemed to a lot of us here in America’s Greatest (Tertiary) City that the Archdiocese was trying to sneak the school closings in, craftily. Who on earth announces schools are voluntarily closing in September in March? It’s sort of like how the Colts legendarily loaded up their Mayflower trucks in the middle of the night and fled to Indianapolis under cover of darkness. Funny thing is, people are still talking about the Colts, the Mayflower trucks, the middle of the night. It’s a fairly common reference point here in Charm City. The Colts left in 1984.

Memories are long here in Baltimore, as is the love of sports. So, one wonders if Archbishop O’Brien pondered the possible implications of cold-closing Cardinal Gibbons, save for the requisite broken hearts and fury. Well, Archbishop, now you’ve got the NYT on your case: indeed, a front-pager in yesterday’s SportsSunday by Richard Sandomir.  Archbishop! Did you not realize it? Did it not occur to you? Cardinal Gibbons is the living repository of the baseball childhood of The Sultan of Swat himself: Babe Ruth!

Cardinal Gibbons sits on the site of the former St. Mary’s Industrial School for Boys, and its field receives a steady stream of visitors who wish to visit the hallowed ground where The Colossus of Clout learned the game. The director of the Babe Ruth Birthplace and Museum, Michael L. Gibbons, is quoted as saying that the loss of the school and field would be significant. “It’s like a Gettysburg experience. He learned the game on that soil You can touch it. It’s tangible.” Surely, the sight of the young Cardinals, playing on that field in the uniforms bearing the legend the House that Babe Ruth built only enhance its worth. Be it field, building or house, objects that stay in use as they were originally intended to are vastly superior to those that get roped off and dusted periodically, only glimpsed while earnest docents drone on, never touched.

The board and alumni are preparing to do battle with the archdiocese, and another radio ad campaign is being mounted. The archdiocese maintains it’s merely an economic matter, due to Gibbons’ declining enrollment and financial troubles. Nationwide, Sandomir reports, 1,603 parochial schools have closed since 2000, leaving 7,094. Which makes me wonder: without Catholic schools, where are they going to grow new Catholics? Will the pews soon be as gray-haired and elderly as our diminishing sisterhood? Stay tuned. As far as the Gibbons field goes, keeping it in play? That’s surely what the Babe would have wanted.