If you ask Cal Ripken Jr., it was neither skill nor a narcissistic need to achieve fame that led him to rewrite history.
Instead, Ripken credits his principles and values for his notorious record and his Hall of Fame Major League Baseball career.
On Sept. 5, 1995, on a memorable night in Baltimore, Ripken Jr. played in his 2,131 consecutive MLB game. That bested a 56-year-old record set by fellow Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig.
At the time, it was a record many felt would never be broken; and that sentiment has since transferred over to Ripken’s mark.
“My own personal feeling is that I didn’t try to do it,” Ripken said. “The principle, or the value, was that your job as a baseball player, in a real simple way, was to come to the ballpark ready to play. And if the manager, the person in charge, thinks you can help your team win that day, he puts you in the lineup and you play.”
Ripken would go on to extend the record to 2,632 straight games before asking his manager to sit out on Sept. 20, 1998. His career built a name synonymous with integrity, endurance and a steadfast dedication to a strong work ethic.
Bringing his message to York: It’s those same core ideals that Ripken plans to share Sunday, March 11, when he visits York Catholic High School. The Baltimore Orioles legend will share his views through a conversation with the audience where he’ll weave stories from his playing day and other experiences to convey his message.
“A lot of principles learned from playing athletics, the principles of the streak, some of the things I value,” Ripken responded when asked the overall message of his presentation. “Those values and principles come out in different forms. In a conversation, a lot will depend on audience, a lot will depend on the moderator. Generally speaking, the message is about the values and principles I’ve learned through sports.”
Ripken Jr. played with the Orioles from 1981 until his retirement in 2001.
After winning American League Rookie of the Year honors in 1982, Ripken led the Orioles to a World Series title in 1983. He would finish as a two-time Most Valuable Player who appeared in 19 All-Star Games.
Ripken noted it was a humble approach to the game that helped launch his legendary career and get the record rolling.
“Clearly, I didn’t come into big leagues telling Earl Weaver ‘Listen, Earl Weaver, I know you know what you’re doing, and you’ve had great success, but you’re going to have to put me in the lineup every day,’” Ripken said with a laugh.
“The streak started because he put me in the lineup every day and I responded well and played well. It was a matter of me trying to keep a principle, which is my job is to come to the ballpark every day and play.”
Post playing days: After his retirement from baseball, but not wanting to leave the game behind entirely, Ripken and his brother, Billy, formed the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation in 2001. The organization gives underprivileged children the opportunity to attend camps across the country and learn the game.
The Foundation is a branch of another of the famous shortstop’s ventures --- Ripken Baseball.
Ripken Baseball is a series of venues that host player development camps and tournaments. The main location is Aberdeen, Maryland, and others include Myrtle Beach, South Carolina and Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.
Ripken also has an ownership stake in the Aberdeen Ironbirds, a short-season Single-A affiliate of the Orioles. And during the season, Ripken is studio analyst with TBS Sports.
But with his business and charitable endeavors burgeoning, Ripken finds himself on the road a bit more.
“In the early days, I was in the office quite a bit trying to build the kids business and the minor league baseball business. Those business have stabilized and they don’t need the day-to-day stuff,” Ripken said “I have been spending more time with the Foundation side. The more success the foundation has, by building these fields all over country, and we are a national foundation now, it does require my presence.”
Ripken notes his attendance at events and other meetings is vital in helping create business partnerships and gaining sponsorships. He also enjoys traveling for various speaking engagements like the one he’ll attend Sunday.
Ticket info: Sunday’s event is sponsored by WellSpan Sports Medicine and is slated to start at 2:30 p.m. Tickets can be purchased by visiting www.yorkcatholic.org; and proceeds benefit York Catholic athletic programs.
The prices are $125 for an ‘Infield Ticket – 2nd base,’ which is located in the front-center sections. An ‘Infield Ticket – 1st or 3rd base’ costs $100 and is located in the front-side sections. And an ‘Outfield Seat’ is located in the back section and is available for $75.