Ripken, Cal, Jr.
Cal Ripken, Jr.
American baseball player
Merely going on his playing accomplishments—a much-admired all-around slugger/shortstop, several Golden Glove and Player of the Year honors—Cal Ripken, Jr. may well be placed among professional baseball's elite. But beyond his talent, Ripken demonstrated a devotion to his game and to his team, the Baltimore Orioles, that moved him into the pantheon of sport's most notable figures. He became an embodiment of dedication by missing not a single game from his start in 1983 until 1995, when he broke Lou Gehrig's longstanding record of consecutive games played at 2,131. It would be another five hundred consecutive games before Ripken would finally "sit out" a Major League contest. "You gotta play as many games as you can," he told Ralph Wiley in a 1990 Sports Illustrated interview. "Since there are so many possible plays, you can't get it all unless you're there every day. You can't get it from a book. You play games."
All in the Family
Ripken began "playing games" early in life. His father, for whom Ripken was named, preceded his son onto the Orioles, beginning as a minor-league catcher in 1957. For decades thereafter, Cal Sr. would be a figurehead in the organization as player, coach, and manager of farm teams in Wisconsin, South Dakota, and North Carolina, and the Orioles proper in Baltimore. Calvin Edward Ripken, Jr. was born in Havre de Grace, Maryland, on August 24, 1960. While the Ripkens made their home in Aberdeen, Maryland, their house was often empty as the family—including two brothers and a sister—traveled with their mother to wherever Cal Sr. was coaching or managing that summer. But even with the elder Ripken based in
Baltimore, the family was still an often-divided one: "Baseball took my dad away from me," Cal Jr. told Wiley. "He left at one o'clock every day on the days he was at home, and he was gone completely half the time, on the road. I learned very early that if I wanted to see my dad at all, I would have to go to the ballpark with him."
Baseball became a centerpiece in the boy's life. Ironically, the largest influence in that area was Cal's mother, Viola Ripken. With Cal Sr. away so often, it was Viola who supplied the coaching, the cheers, and the consolation while her son learned his game. Even the elder Ripken was quick to acknowledge his wife's contribution: "I didn't get to see many of [Cal's] games in Little League," he remarked in a People article. "So [his mother] taught him to hit. She was a pretty good hitter herself, and I'm not talking about fanning the kids' behinds."
Entering his teens, Ripken turned his attention toward the minor leagues where his father was coaching. He became a fixture in Asheville, North Carolina, studying the games and peppering Cal Sr. with questions about pitching and hitting strategy. "I always wanted to know why he did something," Ripken was quoted by Sports Illustrated. "By the time I was ready to play, I knew the proper way to do things." Ripken made his mark as a student-athlete, playing in the Mickey Mantle World Series in 1977 and winning the Harford County batting title with a .492 average in his senior year.
The Road to Baltimore
The youth had set his sights modestly, however, revealing in his high-school yearbook that his goal was to become "a minor league baseball player." On graduation in 1978, Ripken appeared destined to achieve that goal. He was selected as a second-round draft choice by his beloved Baltimore, and assigned to a farm team in Blue-field, West Virginia. It was here that the young man was inaugurated as a shortstop (Ripken was also a pitcher in high school). Though he had talent, Ripken also had some maturing to do, as evidenced by his less-than-stellar first year batting average of .264; he also led the league in errors that season. With his move to the Orioles' Florida Instructional League, Ripken was able to strengthen his hitting until he reached a .303 average.
By 1979 Ripken had improved enough to be placed on an Orioles AA team in Charlotte, North Carolina. Over the next two seasons he was given increasingly more innings; by 1980 Ripken had a .276 batting average and had hit twenty-five home runs, nearly three times the number of homers from the year before. After being named the Southern League's all-star, he was promoted to a AAA team in Rochester, New York, in 1981. Finally, in August 1981, Ripken got the call to join the Orioles. He stepped up to the plate in his first Major League game on Opening Day 1982.
If the early 1982 season were any indicator, Ripken may well have moved back to the minors. In his first game he impressed with a home run, but then slipped, finishing with a 7-for-60 hitting record over the next seventeen games. By May 1, Ripken's batting average had dropped to a dismal .117, leading to a serious crisis of confidence. The young batter sought help from a master, in this case California Angels star Reggie Jackson . It was Jackson who provided these words of advice, as quoted from Baseball Digest: "The Orioles traded away a fine player [third baseman Doug Decinces] so they could bring you up. They know you're going to be great. So just do what you know you can do, not what everybody else tells you to do." Ripken rallied and ended the season with an average of .264.
The Orioles' fortunes rose in 1983, as the team became favorites to win the World Series. Ripken had grown into his game and had become a formidable hitter. He led the majors with 211 hits and forty-seven doubles, and led the American League with 121 hits, including twenty-seven home runs and a .318 batting average. With Ripken's bat leading the way, the Orioles bested the Chicago White Sox in the American League Championship Series. Within the hoopla over the Pennant win, it was also noted that Ripken had played every inning of every game in the 1983 season; it was the quiet beginning of a streak that would help make him a household name. As the Orioles faced the Philadelphia Phillies for the 1983 World Series, Ripken fell into an uncharacteristic slump, batting only.167; still, his team took the crown four games to one.
|BAL: Baltimore Orioles.|
Seasons of Change
Seasons 1984 through 1986 were ones of challenge for the Orioles. The team finished second in the American League in 1984; two seasons later the former World Series champions occupied the bottom rung of the standings. Ripken, however, continued to rack up accomplishments, including a setting an American League record for shortstops with 583 assists (a play that leads directly to an out being recorded). From 1985 to 1986, he hit twenty-six and twenty-five home runs respectively and batted .282 each season. All the while, he continued to be a part of every inning, every game. In 1987 another Ripken—brother Billy—joined the Orioles at second base. With Cal Sr. serving as team manager, the franchise set a record for the most sons on the same team at once.
That season didn't turn out as successful as the Ripkens may have hoped. The team finished 1987 in sixth place; Cal Sr. was dismissed as manager (though he stayed with the organization as third-base coach). Cal Jr. also fell back a bit, finishing with a .252 average, but increasing his home run count to twenty-seven. With misfortune following Baltimore into 1988, Ripken was notable mainly for being a bright spot in a losing team, batting .264 with twenty-three homers. Though Ripken's playing streak was still in effect, his father insisted that Cal Jr. sit out part of a losing game in 1987, marking a few innings off his otherwise perfect record; he still maintained his presence in every game, however.
The 1989 season marked Ripken's eighth in the Major Leagues; with his twenty-one home runs that season, he became the first shortstop to post eight consecutive seasons of at least twenty home runs. No less impressive was his fieldwork, particularly because, at six-foot-four and 230 pounds, Ripken was decidedly larger in stature than the average shortstop. In a position where players traditionally must grab, pivot, and throw quickly, Ripken instead focused on the action at the mound and the plate for his success. "While a shortstop like Ozzie Smith … dazzles the crowds with his acrobatic moves," noted Baseball Digest writer Kevin Cowherd, "Ripken relies on the situation—the pitcher working in front of him that inning, the count on the batter, and the tendencies of the batter-to get a jump on the ball and make the play." As a result, Ripken often seemed miraculously at the place the ball was hit, affording him more time to complete his play.
Game after Game
By 1990 it was becoming clear that Ripken was no ordinary player. In an era of free-agents, the shortstop was "completely loyal to his team and old-fashioned in his values," as Gentleman's Quarterly writer Thomas Boswell stated. Ripken also went against the tide of the aloof, inaccessible star; he remained approachable to his fans and the press. "A lot of people are hesitant to come up to me," he told Sports Illustrated, but they shouldn't be. I'm a fan too, I enjoyed the game when I was sitting in the stands." Nor was money the driving force in Ripken's life, though he did benefit from his position in the Orioles. Even after he signed a four-year, $4 million contract, Ripken admitted to Newsweek: "I don't want to run down this contract, but the satisfaction that you get from playing, from catching the last out of the World Series … those feelings are a lot greater than this."
Awards continued to follow Ripken through the seasons. In 1991 he was named Most Valuable Player at the All-Star game on the strength of a three-run homer that won the game for the American League. By the end of that season, Ripken had posted an unprecedented season for a shortstop, batting .323, knocking out thirty-four home runs, with 114 runs batted in (RBIs). He struck out only forty-six times. The same year, Ripken won his first Gold Glove for fielding, and though the Orioles did not make the playoffs, their slugger/shortstop was named the American League MVP. His hitting flagged a bit in 1992, a period that saw Ripken at odds with management over contract issues. Though a free agent, he chose to stay with the Orioles, who offered him an unprecedented five-year, $30.5 million contract. By 1993, Ripken was back to form, hitting .300.
|1960||Born August 24 in Havre de Grace, Maryland|
|1978||Second-round draft choice, Baltimore Orioles|
|1982||Makes Major League debut|
|1990||Sets record for 95 consecutive non-error games|
|1994||Joins professional players' strike|
|1995||Plays in 2,131st consecutive game, a national record|
|1996||Extends playing streak to 2,216 games, a world record|
|1998||Sits out first game in 2,632 games|
|1999||Signs a contract extension through 1999 season|
|2001||Retires from professional play|
Excerpts from Ripken's Speech on Breaking the Record
This year has been unbelievable. I've been cheered in ballparks all over the country. People not only showed me their kindness, but more importantly, they demonstrated their love of the game of baseball. I give my thanks to baseball fans everywhere…. There are, however, four people I want to thank specially. Let me start by thanking my dad. He inspired me with his commitment to the Oriole tradition and made me understand the importance of it…. My mom—what can I say about my mom? She is an unbelievable person. She let my dad lead the way on the field, but she was there in every other way—leading and shaping the lives of our family off the field…. When I got to the big leagues there was a man—Eddie Murray—who showed me how to play this game, day in and day out. I thank him for his example and for his friendship…. As my major league career moved along, the most important person came into my life—my wife Kelly. She has enriched it with her friendship and with her love. I thank you, Kelly, for the advice, support, and joy you have brought to me, and for always being there. You, Rachel, and Ryan are my life."
All the while, Ripken continued playing in every game. The professional players' strike of 1994 interrupted the action, cutting the season to only 148 games and canceling the World Series. When the players suited up again it was 1995, and Ripken was quickly closing in on the consecutive-game record set by the beloved Lou Gehrig .
The "Pride of the Yankees," Gehrig had faced up to an incurable disease with such grace that he became a symbol of dignity long after his death. Indeed, there were those who suggested to Ripken that in Gehrig's honor, he should sit out the tie-breaking game and resume the next day with a new "streak." But Ripken was following his own path: "I wasn't doing this for a record in the first place, so I wasn't going to not do it for the record either," he was quoted by Richard Hoffer in a Sports Illustrated piece.
A Record Tied, a Record Set
With more than 2,000 consecutive games under his belt, Ripken—dubbed the "Iron Man" of baseball—was scheduled to tie Gehrig's record on September 5, 1995. The media build-up to that day was intense, and the shortstop found himself checking into hotels under false names to protect his privacy. The evening of September 5, Ripken played the game that brought his streak to 2,130, tying with Gehrig. The next day, September 6, Ripken's appearance at Baltimore's Camden Yards was met by a capacity crowd roaring its approval. When the record became official in the fifth inning, Ripken was acknowledged to have played a record-breaking 2,131 games, missing not a single game since 1983. A post game speech revealed Ripken's humility over the landmark event: "Tonight I stand here, overwhelmed, as my name is linked with the great and courageous Lou Gehrig. I'm truly humbled to have our names spoken in the same breath."
Even after the cheers had died down, Ripken continued in his work ethic. In 1996 he posted game number 2,216, surpassing the world record set by Sachio Kinusaga of Japan. A 1997 move from shortstop to third base did not slow the Baltimore icon at all; in fact, the Orioles made the playoffs that year, with Ripken hitting.385 in the postseason. Finally, on September 20, 1998, Ripken sat out a game, ending the streak at 2,632. But his appeal had hardly faded: Ripken was showcased in a variety of commercials playing off his "Iron Man" image: such trademark lines as Chevrolet's "Like a Rock" and Coca-Cola's "Always" took new meaning when paired with Ripken's image.
On Sunday, September 9, 2001, Ripken made his final appearance as a Baltimore Orioles player. At forty-one, he was a senior member of the organization and had served his team with consistency and conviction. Once more Ripken stepped up to address his fans. "As a kid I had this dream," he said. "And I had the parents that helped me shape that dream. Then, I became part of an organization, the Baltimore Orioles, to help me grow that dream." As he continued, on that night "we close a chapter of this dream: my playing career. But I have other dreams…. My dreams for the future include pursuing my passion for baseball. Hopefully I will be able to share what I have learned." He had played 3,001 games for the same team over twenty years.
"There are three words which aptly describe Cal Ripken, Jr., both as a player and a person," noted a CBS Sportsline writer: "Excellence; dependability; and consistency." For all his acclaim, however, the athlete long ago recognized his responsibility to his fans. "As a baseball player you are instantly a role model," he told Sport. "Some people don't accept that. I choose to accept it because I remember vividly what baseball players meant to me and how they influenced my life."
SELECTED WRITINGS BY RIPKEN:
Ripken: Cal on Cal, Summit, 1995.
(With Greg Brown) Count Me In, Taylor, 1995.
(With Mike Bryan) The Only Way I Know, Viking, 1997.
Awards and Accomplishments
|1977||Played in the Mickey Mantle World Series|
|1980||Named Southern League All-Star|
|1982||Voted American League Rookie of the Year|
|1983||Baltimore Orioles win World Series|
|1983||Voted American League Most Valuable Player (MVP)|
|1990||Set records for fewest errors and highest fielding percentage by a shortstop|
|1991||American League Most Valuable Player; Sporting News Major League Player of the Year; All-Star Game MVP, and Gold Glove|
|1995||Associated Press and United Press International Male Athlete of the Year; Sporting News Major League Player of the Year; Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year; Newsweek newsmaker; People Most Intriguing People.|
|1996||Opened Ripken Museum, Aberdeen, Maryland|
|1997||Published autobiography, The Only Way I Know|
|2001||Made farewell address at Camden Field, September 9|
Where Is He Now?
Having retired from play in 2001, Cal Ripken, Jr.—a family man whose wife, Kelly, and children Rachel and Ryan, figure largely in his life—has left a legacy of community service. He founded the Kelly and Cal Ripken, Jr., Foundation, which supports adult and family literacy, youth recreation, and health-related programs in the greater Baltimore area; the couple are also benefactors of the Baltimore Reads Ripken Learning Center, the Kelly G. Ripken Program for thyroid education at Johns Hopkins University; and the Baltimore School for the Arts. In 1995, the Cal Ripken, Jr./Lou Gehrig ALS Research Fund was established at Johns Hopkins. "Because We Care," a program funded by Ripken, donates tickets to Baltimore home games to the underprivileged. In April 2002, GoodMark Foods entered into a promotion featuring lunch with Ripken as the grand prize of a sunflower-seeds contest.
(With Mike Bryan) Cal Ripken, Jr.: My Story, Dial Books for Young Readers, 1999.
Contemporary Newsmakers 1986. Detroit: Gale, 1987.
Encyclopedia of Popular Culture. Detroit: St. James Press, 2000.
Encyclopedia of World Biography. Detroit: Gale, 1998.
Ripken, Cal, Jr., with Greg Brown. Count Me In. Taylor, 1995.
Ripken, Cal, Jr., with Mike Bryan. Cal Ripken, Jr.: My Story. Dial Books for Young Readers, 1999.
Ripken, Cal, Jr., with Mike Bryan. The Only Way I Know. New York: Viking, 1997.
Ripken, Cal, Jr. Ripken: Cal on Cal. New York: Summit, 1995.
Rosenfeld, Harvey. Iron Man: The Cal Ripken, Jr. Story. New York: St. Martin's, 1995.
Baseball Digest (June, 1983).
Baseball Digest (March, 1986).
"Cockeyed Coup." Time (September 7, 1992).
Gentleman's Quarterly (April, 1984).
Newsweek (April 1, 1984).
People (October 21, 1983).
Podesta, Jane. "Cal-ligraphy." People (June 30, 1997).
Reyes, Sonia. "GoodMark Goes Nuts for Sunflower Seeds as Chaser to Slim Jim Success." BrandWeek (April 8, 2002).
Sport (May, 1992).
Sports Illustrated (June 18, 1990).
Sports Illustrated (June 25, 1990).
Sports Illustrated (June 10, 1991).
Sports Illustrated (July 29, 1991).
Sports Illustrated (June 8, 1992).
Sports Illustrated (May 31, 1993).
Sports Illustrated (June 28, 1993).
Sports Illustrated (August 7, 1995).
Sports Illustrated (September 11, 1995).
Sports Illustrated (September 18, 1995).
Sports Illustrated (December 18, 1995).
Sports Illustrated (August 4, 1997).
Sports Illustrated (September 7, 1998).
Sports Illustrated (September 28, 1998).
Sketch by Susan Salter
Cal Ripken Jr
Cal Ripken Jr.
Cal Ripken, Jr. (born 1960) holds many records in professional baseball, but it is his breaking of Lou Gehrig's record of 2, 131 consecutive games played that especially endears him to his admirers, who call him the "Iron Man" of baseball. The perseverance, endurance and everyday work ethic that Ripken has exhibited throughout his 17 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles has made him one of the most popular professional athletes in all of sports.
Calvin Edwin Ripken, Jr. was born on August 24, 1960 in the small Maryland town of Havre de Grace to Calvin, Sr. and Viola Ripkin. His father had been with the Baltimore Orioles as a minor-league catcher since 1957, and after a shoulder injury dashed his hopes of a major-league career, the elder Ripken stayed on with the club as a coach and manager at both the minor and major-league level. While the family made their home in Aberdeen, Maryland, Ripken's father traveled around from Wisconsin to South Dakota before finally managing the Orioles minor-league team in North Carolina.
His father would also work extra jobs in the summer to help the family keep their heads above water. During the summers, the family would leave Aberdeen, about 30 miles north of Baltimore, and travel with their father during the baseball season. Even with all of the traveling alongside his father, Ripken never saw much of him because of the long hours he put in at the ball park. He soon came to the conclusion that the only way he would be able to see his father was if he played baseball.
Interest in Baseball Grows
Sitting in the stands watching his father coach, the young Ripken learned the finer points of the game that would one day be his life. After the games, he would spend what little time he had with his father discussing the games. At the age when most young children dream of becoming a fireman or an astronaut, Ripken had already decided what his future career would be. "I've always been serious about baseball, " Ripken told the Washington Post. "From eight or nine on, I knew sports were my life. The teachers would say, 'Write down what you want to be, ' and by eleven or twelve, I had narrowed it to baseball." By the time Ripken was 12-years-old, he was taking batting and in-field practice with his father's team and idolizing his favorite minor-league player, Doug DeCinces, who he would one day replace in the Orioles line-up.
In 1976, Ripken's father was promoted to a coaching position with the Orioles in Baltimore and Ripken was a constant presence pitching and hitting during batting practices, retrieving balls, getting advice from major-league stars like Brooks Robinson and dreaming of becoming a Baltimore Oriole. After games, Ripken would quiz his father further about the day's game, picking up more knowledge about the intricacies of the game. A two time letter-winner in soccer, it was baseball that was Ripken's first love during high school and he made the varsity team as a freshman. Ripken played in the Mickey Mantle World Series in Texas in 1977, and won the Harford County batting title with an amazing .492 batting average his senior year. Behind his play, his high school team was crowned state Class A champions in 1978 and, soon after, Ripken was selected by the Orioles in the second round of the annual baseball draft. His dream was complete, as he was now a member of the Baltimore Orioles baseball team.
Begins Play for the Orioles
Ripken was employed by the Orioles amateur-league team in Bluefield, West Virginia, where he decided to play shortstop instead of pitcher. He reasoned that if he failed as a shortstop, he could instead try out as a pitcher. His first season with the Orioles organization was not an amazing success, he had a mediocre .264 batting average and led the league in errors with 33. Soon after, he was moved to the Oriole's Florida Instructional League team in Miami and improved to a .303 batting average.
At the end of the 1979 season, he was promoted to a spot on the Oriole's AA team in Charlotte, North Carolina and had a .180 batting average after only 61 at-bats. In 1980, he had a .276 batting average and hit 25 home runs after hitting only eight in his previous two seasons. Behind this performance, he was named the Southern League's all-star and was soon moved up the ladder again, this time to the Oriole's AAA team in Rochester, New York in 1981. He continued to develop in Rochester, with a batting average of .288 and 23 home runs, before being called up to the Orioles in August of 1981.
Learns to be Himself
Ripken had a batting average of only .128 in 39 at-bats during his first season with the Orioles, but his second season would prove to be a watershed. The Orioles had traded former third baseman Doug DeCinces, who had been with the club since 1977, to the California Angels believing that third base would be Ripken's ultimate spot on the team. Although he had started out switching back and forth between third base and shortstop, Oriole manager Earl Weaver placed Ripken at third base to start his second season. After hitting a home run during his first at-bat his second season, Ripken's performance declined to a mere .117 batting average.
After consulting his father and future baseball hall of fame star Reggie Jackson, Ripken's performance improved to a .264 batting average with 28 home runs and he was selected as the American League's Rookie of the Year. "[Reggie Jackson] told me to just be myself and everything would fall into place…. After that, everything seemed to click, " Ripken told the Sporting News. With the club struggling during the playoff race at the end of the 1982 season, Ripken was moved to shortstop, a position many thought him too young and too tall, at six-feet-four-inches, to play effectively. The Orioles eventually lost the eastern division championship to the Milwaukee Brewers, but Ripken had played well and Jackson's advice had worked. Ripken would continue to play shortstop until 1996 before moving back to third base.
Success and Defeat
In 1983, with Ripken firmly in place and comfortable, he helped the Orioles win the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies. For his efforts he was voted the American League's most valuable player for the series and the Sporting News player of the year. Earlier that year, he also helped captain the American League all-star team to its first victory since 1971 over the National League.
In 1984, Ripken signed a new four-year contract, but even with going on to set record after record, his team finished only in fifth place. In 1985, the Orioles finished in fourth place, but Ripken had a respectable .282 batting average. In 1986, the Orioles finished last in their division, the first time this had happened in team history. In response the team fired their manager and hired Ripken, Sr.
At the beginning of the 1987 season, there were three Ripkens in the Orioles training camp, Cal, Sr. and Jr. and Billy, Cal, Jr.'s younger brother, who would play second base. Ripken had only a .252 batting average that year but led American League short stops in assists and later that year signed a new one-year contract worth $1.75 million. At the end of the 1987 season, Ripken married his longtime girlfriend, Kelly Greer. During the 1988 season, Ripken's father was fired as the Orioles had the worst record in baseball history. However, Ripken was seen by fans and management as a player the team could not afford to be without, and he soon signed a new four year contract worth $8.4 million.
During the 1989 season, Ripken was slowly taking over as the team's leader, as Eddie Murray, who had been traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers, was no longer there. Despite losing the divisional title to the Toronto Blue Jays, Ripken committed only eight errors and hit 21 home runs. This made him the first shortstop to have eight 20-homer seasons. On June 12, 1990, Ripken moved into second place for the record of most consecutive games played as he appeared in his 1, 308th consecutive game, surpassing Everett Scott's mark. Ripken also broke Scott's record for the most games played in one position. "It wasn't a goal coming to the big leagues that I wouldn't miss a game, " Ripken told the New York Times. "You just try to prepare yourself each and every day and go there. Eight years later, it had evolved into this."
Unfortunately, Ripken's batting average had declined every year since 1983 and many wondered if his insistence to play every game was wearing him down. But, his defensive play was improving and in the 1990 season, he made only three errors. He also set a record for shortstops by playing 95 games without committing an error. In 1990, the Orioles finished only in fifth place, but Ripken continued to hit over 20 home runs and was runner-up for the Gold Glove award. In 1991, Ripken won the American League's most valuable player award for the second time and was voted the major-league player of the year by the Sporting News and the Associated Press. That year he would win the Gold Glove award for the best defensive player and was named the most valuable player for the all-star game.
The opening of the 1992 season saw Ripken bogged down in contract talks with Orioles management. Although he continued to play, his batting average dropped dramatically from the previous year. The fans showed their support and empathy by making him the leading vote-getter in the all-star balloting. On his thirty-second birthday, the talks with management were resolved and Ripken signed the richest deal in baseball history with a five-year contract worth $30.5 million. The deal improved his playing, as he had a batting average of .300 for the 1993 season and in 1994 surpassed Brooks Robinson as the all-time Orioles run-scorer.
On September 6, 1995, Ripken became baseball's "Iron Man" as he surpassed Lou Gehrig's all-time consecutive games played record of 2, 130. He had not missed a game since May 30, 1982 and when the game became official in the fifth inning, the capacity crowd at Baltimore's Camden Yards roared its approval. During a speech after the milestone game, Ripken underplayed his achievement and showed the humility that had become his trademark. "Tonight I stand here, overwhelmed, as my name is linked with the great and courageous Lou Gehrig. I'm truly humbled to have our names spoken in the same breath."
On May 29, 1996, Ripken hit his 334th home run for first-place on the Orioles all-time list. On June 14, 1996, he played in his 2, 216th consecutive game. This mark surpassed the record of Sachio Kinugasa of the Hiroshima Carp of Japan's Central League and gave Ripken the world record. After moving to third base, he helped lead the Orioles into the playoffs for the 1997 season.
Ripken is signed to a contract extension to play for the Orioles through the 1999 season and lives with his wife and two children, Rachel and Ryan in Reistertown, Maryland. In the spring of 1996, Ripken helped open the Ripken Museum in the town hall at Aberdeen, Maryland and he is extensively involved in various charity organizations throughout Baltimore and Maryland.
Rosenfeld, Harvey, Iron Man: The Cal Ripken, Jr. Story, St. Martins Mass Market Paperback, 1996.
Inside Sports, April 1984.
New York Times, June 11, 1990.
Sport, June 1997.
Sporting News, November 29, 1982; March 9, 1998.
Sports Illustrated, March 22, 1984; April 2, 1984; June 18, 1990; July 29, 1991; June 28, 1993; August 7, 1995.
Washington Post, March 22, 1992.
Cal Ripken, Jr.-Homepage-CBS Sportsline USA,http://www.2131.com (April 28, 1998).
"Orioles Online, " Orioles Online Home Page,http://theorioles.com (April 28, 1998).
Ripken Jr., Cal
Cal Ripken Jr.
Born: August 24, 1960
Havre de Grace, Maryland
American baseball player
Cal Ripken Jr. holds many records in professional baseball, but it is his breaking of Lou Gehrig's (1903–1941) record of 2,131 consecutive games played that gained him so many admirers, who call him the "Iron Man" of baseball. The perseverance, endurance, and everyday work ethic that Ripken exhibited throughout his twenty-one seasons with the Baltimore Orioles made him one of the most popular professional athletes in all of sports.
Growing up with the Orioles
Calvin Edwin Ripken Jr. was born on August 24, 1960, in the small Maryland town of Havre de Grace, to Calvin Sr. and Viola Ripkin. His father had been with the Baltimore Orioles baseball team as a minor league catcher since 1957. After a shoulder injury dashed his hopes of a major league career, the elder Ripken stayed on with the club as a coach and manager at both the minor and major league level. During the summers, the family would leave Aberdeen, Maryland, about thirty miles north of Baltimore, and travel with Cal Sr. during the baseball season. Even with all of the traveling alongside his father, Cal Jr. never saw much of him because of the long hours he put in at the ball park. He soon came to the conclusion that the only way he would be able to see his father was if he played baseball.
In 1976, Ripken's father was promoted to a coaching position with the Orioles in Baltimore. Cal Jr. was a constant presence, pitching and hitting during batting practices, retrieving balls, getting advice from major league stars like Brooks Robinson (1937–), and dreaming of becoming a Baltimore Oriole.
In high school Ripken made the varsity (a school's main team which is usually made up of upperclassmen) baseball team as a freshman. Ripken played in the Mickey Mantle World Series in Texas in 1977 and won the Harford County batting title with an amazing .492 batting average (the percent of time a baseball player gets a hit) his senior year. His high school team was crowned state Class A champions in 1978 and, soon after, Ripken was selected by the Orioles in the second round of the annual baseball draft. His dream was complete, as he was now a member of the Baltimore Orioles organization.
Begins play for the Orioles
Ripken was employed by Baltimore's minor league team in Bluefield, West Virginia, where he was assigned the shortstop position instead of pitcher. His first season with Bluefield was not a great success. He had a .264 batting average and led the league in errors with thirty-three. Soon after, he was moved to the Orioles's Florida Instructional League team in Miami and improved to a .303 batting average.
By the next season Ripken's play greatly improved. He was named the Southern League's all-star and was soon moved up the ladder again, this time to the Orioles's AAA team (the minor league team one step below the major league team) in Rochester, New York, in 1981. He continued to develop in Rochester, with a batting average of .288 and twenty-three home runs, before being called up to the major leagues in August of 1981.
Ripken had a batting average of only .128 in thirty-nine at-bats during his first season with the Orioles, but his second season would prove to be a turning point. Ripken's performance in his second season improved to a .264 batting average with twenty-eight home runs. He was selected as the American League's Rookie of the Year.
In 1983, with Ripken firmly in place and comfortable, he helped the Orioles win the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies. For his efforts he was voted the American League's Most Valuable Player for the series and the Sporting News player of the year.
By the 1989 season, Ripken was slowly taking over as the team's leader. Despite losing the divisional title to the Toronto Blue Jays, Ripken committed only eight errors and hit twenty-one home runs. This made him the first shortstop to have eight 20homer seasons. On June 12, 1990, Ripken moved into second place for the record of most consecutive games played as he appeared in his one thousand three hundredth consecutive game, surpassing Everett Scott's mark. He also set a shortstop record by playing ninety-five games without committing an error.
On September 6, 1995, Ripken became baseball's "Iron Man" as he surpassed Lou Gehrig's all-time consecutive games played record of 2,130. He had not missed a game since May 30, 1982, and when the game became official in the fifth inning, the capacity crowd at Baltimore's Camden Yards roared its approval. During a speech after the milestone game, Ripken underplayed his achievement and showed the humility (the state of not being arrogant) that had become his trademark. "Tonight I stand here, overwhelmed, as my name is linked with the great and courageous Lou Gehrig," he told the crowd. "I'm truly humbled to have our names spoken in the same breath."
On September 20, 1998, Ripken took a day off work, leaving his streak of most consecutive games played at an astounding two 2,632, undoubtedly one of the safest records in all of sports. In July of 2001, Ripken played in his last All-Star game, winning the Most Valuable Player award. At the end of that season, Ripken walked away from the game for good. In retirement he holds nearly every Oriole offensive batting record, including most hits, doubles, home runs, and runs batted in.
For More Information
Campbell, Jim. Cal Ripken, Jr. Philadelphia: Chelsea House, 1997.
Nicholson, Lois. Cal Ripken, Jr., Quiet Hero. 2nd ed. Centreville, MD: Tidewater Publishers, 1995.
Ripken, Cal, Jr. Ripken: Cal on Cal. Edited by Mark Vancil. Arlington, TX: Summit Pub. Group, 1995.
Ripken, Cal, and Mike Bryan. The Only Way I Know. New York: Viking, 1997.
Rosenfeld, Harvey. Iron Man: The Cal Ripken, Jr. Story. New York: St. Martin's Mass Market Paperback, 1996.
Savage, Jeff. Cal Ripken, Jr.: Star Shortstop. Hillside, NJ: Enslow, 1994.