Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Ripken in Hall of Fame

I was pleased to hear that Cal Ripken won election into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame yesterday with the third highest percentage of votes in history. He was a star player on the Baltimore Orioles as I grew up. I can vividly remember his rookie season when I was seven years old. He was immedately my favorite player because I mistakenly thought his name was Cow. That was, however, my way of hearing the name as called by broadcaster Chuck Thompson. The next year, my Mom bought me an orange Orioles shirt that I wore about three times a week. I convinced her to put an Iron-on number 8 on the front and back. I can remember wearing it to my Great Uncle Earl's funural reception and people asking who was number 8? As his consecutive games streak continued, my brother and I would calculate and ponder how long it would take to break the mammoth record set by Lou Gehrig. Later, I can remember tagging along with he and my Mom to some Presbyterian Conference in Baltimore just so I could get a glimpse of Camden Yards' construction in progress. After graduating high school, I can re-count hours spent in the bleachers and standing room with Jim Winn cheering for Cal and giving him a standing ovation every time he stepped to the plate. We worried that the streak might end because of the strike, but Cal continued to play. In September of 1996, the time came for Cal to break the consecutive games streak. I was lucky enough to find a ticket to the game and shed a tear as he circumnavigated the ball field. Two months later, my Dad was diagnosed with his brain tumor, and while I was crushed at his rapid deterioration, I would hold my ticket and look at my photos taken at the record-breaking game. Cal continued to play consecutive games as I ventured off to California for grad school. I would drive to Anaheim when the O's were in town, take some reading, and stand up each time Cal came to the plate. When I worked for the San Diego Padres, I would always check the Orioles score and one evening, I was shocked to hear that Cal sat out a game and the streak was over. His career continued for a couple more years, and he announced that 2001 would be his final season. As a newly married person living in Arizona, I was torn about how I could see Cal play one more time. The Orioles nearly never played the Diamondbacks, and they had already made their road trip to Anaheim. As extremely poor newlyweds, Julie and I ventured 1250 miles from Scottsdale to Kansas City on a road trip to see Cal once more. I shared Cal and Orioles stories with Julie in the car as we traversed the barren west. We went to two of the three games in the series and Cal homered once. Even since his retirement, Cal has been in my thoughts. As a grad student searching for jobs, I would talk myself into applying for positions in the Northeast thinking-- well, at least I would be near Cooperstown for Cal's induction. Now, I am here in Texas with no plans to make a pilgrimmage to Cooperstown for the induction ceremony this summer. I will get there someday in the future, and you can be sure that at some point in the future there will be a photo of me standing with the Cal Ripken display at the HOF. Congratulations Cal, and although we have never met, thanks for being an important part of my life as I grew up.


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