|Birth||August 24, 1960 (age 46), Havre de Grace, Maryland|
|Debut||August 10, 1981, Baltimore Orioles vs. Kansas City Royals, Memorial Stadium, Baltimore|
|Team(s)||As Player |
Baltimore Orioles (1981-2001)
Calvin Edwin Ripken, Jr. (born August 24, 1960 in Havre de Grace, Maryland), commonly known as Cal or Cal Jr., less frequently Junior or Rip, is a former shortstop and third baseman in Major League Baseball who played his entire career for the Baltimore Orioles from 1981 to 2001. A 19-time MLB All-Star, Ripken is considered one of the best shortstops to ever play the game. At 6' 4" (1.93 m), he pioneered the way for the taller and larger shortstops. He was raised in Aberdeen, Maryland, a town near Havre de Grace, by a baseball family. His father, Cal Sr., was a long-time coach in baseball who managed the Orioles in the late 1980s. Ripken attended Aberdeen High School as did his brother Billy, who later played second base for various teams, including the Orioles. He has two other siblings, Elly and Fred. He is married to the former Kelly Geer and has a daughter, Rachel, born in 1989 and a son, Ryan, born in 1993.
Ripken earned the nickname "Iron Man", doggedly remaining in the lineup, no matter how well he was hitting (career batting average: .276). He played in a record 2,632 straight games, spanning sixteen seasons, from May 30, 1982 to September 20, 1998. He played his 2131st consecutive game on September 6, 1995, against the California Angels, breaking the 56-year-old record set by the "Iron Horse" Lou Gehrig, the legendary New York Yankees first baseman who hit at a consistently high level throughout his streak (career batting average: .340). Gehrig's streak ended after he was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. Ripken was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility on January 9, 2007.
His consecutive games played record, which took 16 years to establish, made him a popular player with the American League fans, who voted him into the AL All-Star team 18 out of 19 times.
Despite having statistics that put him among the best in the American League, Ripken played for an average team. The Baltimore Orioles only made the playoffs three times in his 20-year career.
During "The Streak", Cal played nearly the entire game each game (and always was in the starting lineup), averaging 99.8% of total innings played by the Orioles during the streak. Ripken had several close calls that almost ended the streak:
Although Major League Baseball does not keep official records of consecutive innings played, another unofficial record is the 8,243 straight innings he played from June 5, 1982, to September 14, 1987. The consecutive inning streak, which spanned 904 consecutive games, ended in the 8th inning of an 18-3 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays. The decision to rest Cal Ripken was made jointly by Cal Jr. and his father, then-manager Cal Sr. because Cal Sr. believed it was too big a distraction to the team. Cal Ripken sat on the bench for the remaining 20 minutes of the game.
The streak ended at 2,632 games when Ripken decided to sit out the final home game of the 1998 season. Realizing that the streak was coming to an end, the fans, his teammates, and the visiting New York Yankees gave Ripken an ovation after the game's first out was recorded. During the game itself, Ripken got restless sitting in the dugout and eventually made his way out to the bullpen to join the relief pitchers, a slight tip of the hat to Ripken's original drafted position as a pitcher. Ripken later stated that he decided to end the streak at the end of the season to avoid an off-season controversy about his playing status.
Cal Ripken also played third base for the Rochester Red Wings in the longest game in professional baseball history: a 33 inning, 8 hour, 25 minute, 3-2 loss to the Pawtucket Red Sox that began on April 18, 1981, and didn't end until June 23 when play resumed. Contemporary Wade Boggs also played in this game, for the Red Sox.
Ripken had been seen to use a more crouched stance during the season and the results were much better than previous years. Ripken led the American League with 111 hits and a .348 batting average at the All-Star Break. He finished the season by hitting .323/.374/.566 over 717 plate appearances, with 34 HR and 114 RBI. In addition to that, Ripken hit 46 doubles, stole a career-high 6 bases and was caught once, and also hit 5 triples, while posting his career lowest strikeout rate and lowest number of strikeouts in a season with 600 or more plate appearances. His 1991 season is the fourth-greatest in baseball history (second among non-pitchers) as measured by WARP3 at 17.0 wins, bested only by Walter Johnson's 1913(18.1 wins), Babe Ruth's 1923(18 wins), and Amos Rusie's 1894 season(17.6 wins).
Ripken won his second AL MVP award, the Gold Glove Award, 1991 All Star game MVP award (going 2 for 3 including a 3-run home run off Dennis Martínez), the Gatorade Home Run Derby contest (hitting a then record 12 home runs in 22 swings, including 7 consecutive homers to start the contest), Louisville Slugger "Silver Slugger Award", AP Player of the Year Award, and The Sporting News Player of the Year Award. The only other player in MLB history to win all those awards in the same season, excluding the Home Run Derby, was Maury Wills in 1962.
Ripken also became the first player ever to win the Home Run Derby and be named All Star Game MVP in the same year. The only other player that has accomplished this feat is Garret Anderson of the Anaheim Angels in 2003.
Ripken was the first AL MVP in MLB history to win the award while playing with a sub .500 club. The Orioles finished in 6th place that year with a 67-95 record.
On September 6, 1995, many baseball fans within and out of the United States tuned in to cable TV network ESPN to watch Ripken surpass Lou Gehrig's 56-year-old record for consecutive games played. The event still ranks as one of the network's most watched baseball games ever. Cal's children, Rachel and Ryan, threw out the ceremonial first balls. When the game became official in the bottom of the fifth inning, the numerical banners that displayed Ripken's streak on the wall of the B&O Warehouse outside the stadium's right field wall changed from 2130 to 2131. Everyone attending (including the opposing Angels and all four umpires) erupted with a standing ovation lasting over 22 minutes, one of the longest standing ovations for any athlete. During the ovation, Cal also did a lap around the entire Camden Yards warning track to shake hands and give high-fives to the fans. ESPN never went to a commercial break during the entire ovation. In the game, Ripken went 2 for 4, hitting a home run and a double in the game. Mike Mussina recorded the win. Ripken's home run was hit to a seat (now marked in the stadium) in his 2130th consecutive game. He had previously hit a home-run in 1993 to the exact same seat to break Ernie Banks' record for most home-runs by a shortstop.
On September 20 before the final home game of the season against the New York Yankees, Ripken decided to end his streak at 2,632 games. Rookie third baseman Ryan Minor started in his place. Realizing that the streak was coming to an end, the fans, his teammates, and the visiting Yankees gave Ripken an ovation after the game's first out was recorded. Ripken later stated that he decided to end the streak at the end of the season, to avoid an off-season controversy about his playing status.
In 1999, Cal had his statistically best season since 1991. Although he was injured at the beginning and the end of the 1999 season, he managed to hit 18 homers in only 332 at-bats (one HR every 18.4 AB's) while hitting a career high .340. He also had the best individual game of his career, going 6 for 6 with 2 homers off of John Smoltz and tying a club record with 13 total bases against the Atlanta Braves on 6/13/1999.
Ripken's 1999 season ended early due to injury when he was only 9 hits away from joining the 3000 hit club. He finally achieved the milestone early in the 2000 season when he singled off of reliever Héctor Carrasco in a game against the Minnesota Twins on April 15, 2000.
In June 2001, Ripken announced his retirement. He was voted the starting third baseman in the All-Star game at Safeco Field on July 10, 2001 in Seattle. In a tribute to Cal's achievements and stature in the game, shortstop Alex Rodriguez insisted on exchanging positions with third baseman Ripken for the first inning, so that Ripken could play shortstop as he had for most of his career. In the third inning, Ripken made his first plate appearance and was greeted with a standing ovation. Ripken then homered off the first pitch from Chan Ho Park. Ripken ended up with All Star MVP honors. He is the only AL player in MLB history with multiple All Star Game MVP Awards (1991 and 2001). Ripken's #8 was retired by the Baltimore Orioles in a ceremony before the final home game of the 2001 season.
At 6 ft 4 in, 225 lb (1.93 m, 102 kg), Ripken was a departure from the prototypical shortstop of the time — small, fleet-of-foot players who played a defensively difficult position but often did not post the home run and batting average totals that an outfielder might. Power hitting shortstops such as Alex Rodriguez and Miguel Tejada are often seen to be part of Ripken's legacy.
Nonetheless, Ripken demonstrated the ability to play excellent defense at shortstop, and as a result remained a fixture there for well over a decade, leading the league in assists several times, winning the Gold Glove twice, and, in 1990, setting the MLB record for best fielding percentage in a season at his position. Though not a flashy fielder, Ripken displayed excellent fundamentals, and studied batters and even his own pitching staff so he could position himself to compensate for his lack of physical speed, even calling pitches at times. His success is reflected in his career range factor per game of 4.62 — one of the highest ever among shortstops, even above quicker 10-time Gold Glove winner Omar Vizquel. Ripken's legacy as a fielder is reflected by his place near the top of almost every defensive statistical category — he holds at least one all-time record (for either season, career, or most seasons leading the league) in assists, putouts, fielding percentage, double plays, and fewest errors.
Ripken's power, which led to records like the most home runs by shortstop and 13th for career doubles, also had some consequences. His propensity to drive the ball often led to his grounders getting to fielders quickly for tailor-made double-play balls. In 1999, Ripken passed Hank Aaron as the player who had grounded into the most double plays in his career — interestingly enough, he is also second on the fielding side for double plays by a shortstop.
On January 9, 2007, Cal Ripken, Jr. was elected to the Hall of Fame, appearing on 537 out of 545 of the ballots cast (98.5%), eight votes short of an unanimous selection. His percentage is the third highest in history, behind Tom Seaver who received 98.84 percent of the vote and Nolan Ryan who received 98.79 percent, and the highest ever for a regular position player. Tony Gwynn, who also appeared on his first ballot, was chosen alongside Ripken. Both Hall of Fame-Elects will be formally inducted on July 29, 2007.
Cal Ripken retired on October 6, 2001 and paid for a new stadium in Aberdeen, MD. He is a part owner of the New York-Penn League's Aberdeen IronBirds, the Short-season Class A affiliate Minor League Baseball team within the Orioles' system. On June 28, 2005, he announced that he was also purchasing the Augusta GreenJackets of the South Atlantic League, a Class A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. Ripken has also made donations to charity causes, including many donations supporting research on Lou Gehrig's disease. He and his brother Billy also formed the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation to give underprivileged children the opportunity to attend baseball camps around the country and learn the game. The Foundation is a branch of Ripken Baseball. In addition to controlling these camps and Ripken's minor league teams, Ripken Baseball controls for-profit camps and designs ballfields for youth, college, and professional teams. He also gives speeches about his time in baseball and some of the lessons he has learned. Ripken publishes a weekly advice column in the Baltimore Sun.
Ripken is still a popular figure in Baltimore and Washington, DC area advertising, and frequently appears in regional commercials for Comcast cable and internet service. His appearance at a February 10th, 2007 Washington Capitals game prompted a standing ovation from the crowd .
Ripken unexpectedly made news in November of 2003 when he reported a naked man at his door. The visitor was a bleeding kidnapping victim dropped off near his home.
In 2005, the Orioles honored Ripken on the 10th anniversary of his 2,131st consecutive game. After the top of the 5th inning, the numbers 2130 on the warehouse behind the stadium changed to 2131, just as they did on September 6, 1995.
Currently, Ripken is promoting his own line of baseball training videos.
Billy and Cal Ripken are one of only four brother combinations in major league history to play second base/shortstop on the same club, Baltimore Orioles, during the 1980s. The others are Garvin and Granny Hamner, for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1945; the twins Eddie and Johnny O'Brien, with the Pittsburgh Pirates in the mid-1950s, and Frank and Milt Bolling, for the Detroit Tigers in 1958.
On January 10, 2007, Ripken expressed interest in purchasing the Baltimore Orioles if current owner Peter Angelos were to sell the team. He has yet to be approached about the potential purchase of the team.