Bill Ripken: Cal Was The Ultimate Teammate
Seventeen years to day after America watched Cal Ripken Jr. played a Major League Baseball record 2,131st consecutive game, the Orioles honored him Thursday with a bronze statue beyond the outfield walls of the park.
"Getting your own statue is very cool," Ripken said afterward.
The statue features Ripken during a defensive play in the field, using his backhand to snare a ball in the hole. The statue mirrors the way Ripken made tough plays look routine. It's something he did throughout his career, including 2,632 total consecutive games played.
"I think the whole thing is to capture the essence of the player," Ripken said. "Certainly, with the backhand, stretch play in the hole, I made that play many times. I was longer. I was rangier. I was bigger and that symbolized a bigger person playing the position of shortstop.
"I was very proud of the success I had there. I was very proud of the time I played there. Maybe in a small way that changed the dialogue that says a bigger guy can't play the shortstop position. I'm very proud of the pose. It looks like me."
Lou Angelos, son of principal owner Peter G. Angelos, praised Ripken's tireless dedication to the Orioles and said people could see themselves in the superstar, who passed Lou Gehrig's 2,130 consecutive-games-played streak Sept. 6, 1995.
"I think, as much as it tells us about Cal's dedication to the game of baseball, it tells us so much more about the importance of baseball to its fans and, really, to all Americans," Angelos said. "Baseball, in so many ways, is a metaphor for life and every day, with every game, there was a new opportunity to put the problems and the difficulties of the day behind, to look to the future, to improve, to work together and otherwise help those around us."
Ripken retired in 2001 and was inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007. The 19-time All-Star won eight Silver Slugger awards, two Gold Glove awards and two American League MVP awards. He helped lead the Orioles to the 1983 World Series, and the club made three postseason appearances during his tenure.
In 1995, as Ripken captured the country's imagination, he felt the sting of not being in a postseason chase at the time. But, he said he's also feeling inspired by the 2012 Orioles, who entered Thursday night's game just one game out of first place in the American League East.
"I wanted so desperately for us to be in the race and to be playing for the pennant, for a playoff position," Ripken said. "Coming in Sept. 6, it feels really good to walk into that stadium and see that excitement, see that there is a big series in September with the Yankees and only one game separates the two teams. Certainly it adds to it. This is an exciting time for this team."
Ripken is the fifth Oriole and National Baseball Hall of Famer to be honored with a statue this season. Brooks Robinson will be honored later this month.
Ripken's brother, Bill, said he was always called Cal "The Golden Boy." He pointed out the irony in his brother’s likeness now in bronze. More than that, though, Bill said Cal was the ultimate teammate.
"It's about a guy who cared about winning on the field, cared about winning off the field," Bill Ripken said. "He cared about how he did it on the field. He cared about how he did it off the field."
Posted Sept. 6, 2012