Cal Ripken, Jr. is one of the most beloved and well-known players in Major League History. He played 21 seasons (all for the Baltimore Orioles) and was a 19-time All star at Shortstop (and later third base). He won a World Series with Baltimore in 1983, won 2 Gold Gloves, 8 Silver Sluggers, 2 AL MVP awards, won the 1991 Home Run Derby and so much more. He is as famous for his down to earth attitude as for one remarkable record.
Most people know that Ripken has the record for consecutive MLB games played at 2,632. A feat that will most likely never be bested. But, did you know that he played third base in all 33 innings of the longest modern day baseball game ever played? It was a minor league game on April 18th, 1981 between the Rochester Red Wings and the Pawtucket Red Sox. The Red Sox eventually won 3-2, but Ripken was there until the end. That’s another piece of the legend of Ripken that has led to his nickname “Iron Man”.
Ripken retired in 2001 and finished with a .276 career batting average, 3,184 hits, 431 home runs and 1,695 runs batted in. Not surprisingly, he was a first ballot Hall of Famer in 2007.
I was lucky enough to talk with him for a few minutes after participating in a charity home run derby for State Farm Go To Bat. The money raised went to help the Phoenix Boys and Girls club. Ripken is involved in multiple charities and gladly uses his fame to help those who are less fortunate.
In 2007, Ripken was named as a Special Public Diplomacy Envoy to the U.S. State Department. He travels all over the World and uses the game of baseball to spread goodwill.
Osburn: How long have you been affliated with State Farm Go To Bat?
Ripken: As you pass fifty you start to forget how long you’ve been associated with different things. But I would have to say that it has been a minimum of three years.
Osburn: So you’ve been at the last few All-Star games? How have you enjoyed your experience?
Ripken: I always like it. Last year, we had a ballpark set up where Jennie Finch was there and she participated in the media home run derby. This year, with the fan fest, and all the interactive activities, it’s just a great atmosphere. I certainly enjoy playing and working with the kids. Participating in the home run derby is pretty cool too.
Osburn: Tell me a little bit about Ripken Baseball:
Ripken: Ripken baseball has multiple sides to it. There’s the professional side with multiple teams affiliated with the organization. The Amateur side is tournaments, teaching baseball and camps. Aberdeen (Maryland) is mostly a tournament destination on the weekends. Players come from all over the country to play in the facilities there. We try to give them the experience more like the big leagues. We have a mini-Fenway Park, we have Wrigley Field, we have Memorial Stadium and we have a replica of Camden yards with a warehouse and everything. It’s a fantastic place for kids to enjoy a big league experience. It’s our headquarters and our main teaching facility.
Osburn: How old were you when you first picked up a glove and bat?
Ripken: I was given my glove and bat almost at birth I think. Go back and look at my baby pictures and I always seem to have a plastic ball and bat in my hands. I grew up in a baseball family. The cool part about it was that there really wasn’t a whole lot of pressure that was put out there to be a baseball player. They said just go enjoy the game and go play it. Fortunately, I understood the love of the game and I had enough talent to succeed at a high level. Many parents apply too much pressure on their kids. It’s better to let kids discover what they are good at. I’m glad that even though I was in a baseball family, my parents let me discover my talents on my own.
Osburn: Tell me about the emotions involved in the night you broke Lou Gehrig’s consecutive game streak:
Ripken: In many ways, I was a little embarrassed by all the attention and all the build up. It wasn’t about me, it was about playing the game right, providing a good example and helping this team win. I started to get a lot of individual attention from the streak, but we were more concerned with trying to get into the pennant race. They stopped the game after the fifth inning after it was an official game. The celebration and the lap around the ballpark was one of the greatest experiences I ever had in my baseball career. It made me reflect on my whole life, how I got there, who was important in getting me to that point. It was extremely emotional at that point. The greatest sense of relief though was when it was all over and we could get back to playing baseball.
I was invited to the State Farm® Home Run Derby and Go to Bat kick-off programs by State Farm. All my travel, food, and lodging expenses were taken care of by State Farm. I was not paid to write this post.