Blog #40 (Cal Ripken, Jr.)

By Richard J. Decker on November 28, 2012 7:00 AM

This week there is no legal section of the blog.

Now for the Opening Day memory:

Simply put, Cal Ripken, Jr. is as special a person as he was a baseball superstar. I am sure many will always remember where they were on September 6, 1995 when Cal surpassed Lou Gehrig's consecutive game streak, a record many believed to be unbreakable--I was listening on the radio while driving home from my first ever stay at the Madonna Inn in San Luis Obispo, California (worth checking out if you have never been). Because I could ramble endlessly about Cal, I am instead going to list some of his more amazing 21 year career highlights and interesting tidbits (starting with one interesting minor league one): played in the longest game ever for the Rochester Red Wings along with fellow Hall of Famer Wade Boggs who played for the Pawtucket Red Sox (33 innings

over 2 days); played 21 years all with the Baltimore Orioles; was a 19 time All Star and hit a home run on the first pitch and won the MVP of his last All Star game in 2001 (he also was the only player ever to win the All Star MVP in two different decades); won the American League MVP twice including 1983, which was the year in which he and his Orioles teammates were World Champions and again in 1991, when he also was the All Star MVP and the winner of the Home Run Derby; began his consecutive game streak in his rookie year of 1982 when he won Rookie of the Year after homering in his first at bat of the season (he recalls that moment below); passed Gehrig in consecutive games played in 1995, and received a 22 minute standing ovation as a result and then took a lap around the field to acknowledge the fans (voted the most memorable moment in baseball history); voluntarily ended his consecutive games played streak at 2632 in 1998 against the Yankees and received a standing ovation from them and his own teammates after the first out was made (a chilling moment for those who were watching); moved to third base from shortstop in 1997 after being a fixture at that position for 15 years; pioneered the era of the power hitting shortstop; hit 20 + home runs for 10 consecutive years; retired with career totals of 3184 hits, 431 home runs and 1695 RBIs; and was elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot with the third most votes in history behind only Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan. What a superlative career--I am tired just from writing all of this. Here is his Opening Day memories as relayed to me by telephone one afternoon while I was at my office. I recall after speaking to him not being able to work for the rest of the day.

Ripken.jpg"When I think back on all of my Opening Days, I had quite a few that were really special. But the one that was probably the most special was my first one. I had just gotten to the big leagues the year before, and then the Orioles traded Doug DeCinces during the off-season while I was in winter ball. So I became the Orioles starting third baseman. Going through spring training, I was trying to find my confidence. I played ok, and did some things that were alright. But once the season started, I realized it was the big time. In my first at bat, I took the first pitch Dennis Leonard of the Royals threw. On the second pitch, he threw me a slider, and I hit it out for a two run homer. Ken Singleton was on first base. The ball cleared the left center field fence, and I had hit a home run in my first at bat of the year! What a way to start my year! I ran around the bases really energetically, and a little too fast. I came to third base and in the third base coaching box was my dad. It was my first major league home run, and I got a chance to shake my dad's hand coming around third. Even though he wasn't one to show his emotions, I noticed that he had some tears coming out of his eyes. I was running so fast I almost passed Ken. He was a veteran and had more of a home run trot. I arrived at home plate at the same time he did, and I surprised him because when he turned around to wait to congratulate me, there I was. I remember running into the dugout and being mobbed by my teammates. We went on to win big, 13-5, and I got three hits that day. After going 3 for 5 that Opening Day, I went 4 for my next 64, but that's another story. It was the most exciting Opener for me."

Wow. Richie