Remembering One of Baseballísóand
Although the phrase "thank you, Cal" has become a cliché over the past few months, it hasnít lost its meaning. In a country where heroes have been redefined to not include athletes, Cal Ripken, Jr. stands out as a definite icon in the sports world.
Ripkenís retirement on October 6,
was the end of an era in baseball and in Baltimore. He was one of the last
players to play on one team for his entire career; an act rare nowadays
thanks to free agency. Cal was the last Ripken in the Orioles franchise;
his father, a former Orioles manager, died in 1999 from cancer, and his
brother, Billy, left the team shortly after the streak.
But Calís more than the streak. There arenít many players who can boast over 400 home runs, over 3,000 hits, and 19 all-star team selections, including two all-star MVP awards, as well as the MVP award for the entire American League in 1983, the last time the Orioles won the World Series. He is also one of two Orioles to ever hit for the cycle, hitting a single, a double, a triple, and a home run all in one game. The other was Brooks Robinson, known to fans as "Mr. Oriole."
Even beyond baseball, Ripken has left his mark. With his wife, Kelly, he continues to donate money to various funds, including to the Family Foundation, The Kelly and Cal Ripken, Jr. Foundation, which supports health and literacy programs in the Maryland area. He also has a little league division named after him, and is building a sports facility in order to educate young baseball fans in the ways of the game.
All in all, Cal Ripken was one of the good guys in the game, rarely refusing autographs, and always doing his best to reach out to his fans. His retirement last weekend was another milestone in his career, a magnificent finishing touch. Although he cannot be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame until 2005, he, along with Tony Gwynn who also retired this season, is a shoo-in to be inaugurated the first year that he is eligible.
Of course, there will be other great players, and eventually someone may break the streak. But for this generation, Cal Ripken will remain the ultimate Oriole, the "Mr. Oriole" of the 80ís and 90ís (and yes, 2000-2001). After 21 seasons, Cal has ended his career, but his legacy will last a lifetime.