Baltimore Orioles: Time still loves a hero named Cal Ripken


My hope is that Baltimore Orioles fans can put aisde their angst over the toils and snares of the team for one day given that it’s “Cal Ripken Jr. Day” at Camden Yards. Before tonight’s game the O’s will commemorate the 20th anniversary of Cal breaking the consecutive games played streak in 1995. Ripken will also throw out the first pitch in honor of the streak, which as we know reached 2,362 consecutive games.

Courtesy of Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

I’m 34 years old; to anyone of my generation, Cal was and still is “the man.” He was the face of this franchise, and really of sports in the city of Baltimore for some time. That latter title eventually passed to Ray Lewis as the Ravens became a perpetual winner and Cal eventually retired (which both happened around the same time). However his career and thus his streak spanned for most of my childhood, and in my case into my high school years.

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  • In my case, I was in my first week as a freshman in high school when he broke the record. I felt it would be tough to match the excitement of the previous evening (when he tied the record) given that he had managed to homer in the game. But never did I think he’d do it again – on a night that most baseball people said would never happen. But as we know, he did.

    Hero’s always rise to the occasion; and perhaps that’s why Cal is so beloved in this town. He always rose to the occasion when it was necessary. Granted he helped put baseball back on the map when the game desperately needed someone to do so (in the wake of the 1994 strike), however he always did what he needed to do for the good of the team and the good of the game. And as we know, time loves a hero.

    Without actually knowing however, I suspect that the image of that night for Cal will always be exchanging a wave and a glance with his Dad, who was sitting in a suite. Part of the lore of Cal Ripken Jr. is the fact that he’s the son of Cal Ripken Sr., who was one of the architechts of the “Oriole Way.” You can’t write stories that read better than that of the Ripken family and their dedication to Baltimore and the Orioles. But it reads as such a great narrative given that while Baltimore itself is a city, it could also be called a very large family. That’s what both Baltimore, and the Orioles are about.

    So tonight Cal will return to The Ballpark That Forever Changed Baseball, and to the fans that so lovingly were there for him at every turn. Even now as a writer that’s supposed to “stand above” this type of thing, for people of my generation he is and always will be “our guy.” One of the true marks of greatness is seeing younger people and kids wearing shirseys for that player – and I see a lot of younger kids wearing #8’s. And for that matter I see a lot of people my age wearing #5’s. Perhaps more than anything else, that shows the great tradition of the Orioles in Baltimore.

    My hope is that Cal soaks in every moment tonight. I doubt there’s anything that he could ever do that would turn this city of these fans against him. Time loves a hero, and thus Baltimore will always love the great Cal Ripken Jr.

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