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A JUNIOR THAT'S SECOND TO NONE.
June 22, 2001

by Bill Hogan

 

 
 

Cal Ripken, Jr. is retiring. Is there another man in sports today that deserves more respect or adulation?

You don't have to be a Baltimore Oriole fan to appreciate what Cal has done for the game of baseball over the past twenty-one years.

 
 

If you're not a Cal Ripken, Jr. fan then you're not a Lou Gehrig fan, or a Willie Mays fan, or a Ted Williams fan - well, basically - you're not a baseball fan.

Those of you who read my column often, know I am a numbers guy. Here's one. Baseball-reference.com (a really good site for all you stat rats) has a system for determining a player's Hall of Fame potential. Achieving a "score" of 100 or better will likely put a player in the Hall of Fame. Cal's "score" is 253. 'Nuff said.

If Cal comes to your city to play your team this year, go. You'll be watching a future Hall of Famer.

* * * * *

I recently attended my niece's elementary school graduation. A four hundred seat auditorium, no air conditioning, and fifty-five minutes of music awards. You couldn't breathe the air, but sipping it through a straw was not out of the realm of possibility.

As heat prostration set in, a young lady was called to the stage to receive an award. It turns out this fifth grader had not missed one day of school all year. It gets better… she had not missed a single day of school since kindergarten!

Remind you of anybody?

I think Cal's consecutive game record is amazing. (I thought Lou Gehrig's consecutive game record was amazing).

My friend's father retired from the post office having accumulated over two hundred sick days - I thought that was amazing.

I can't imagine hitting seventy home runs in a season, or seven hundred and fifty-five in a career or throwing seven no-hitters, but I know what it's like to grab my lunch pail, kiss the wife and kids and go to work every day.

That's what Cal did. He did it for fifteen years. No sick days, no excuses.

Forget about the eighteen All-Star appearances. Forget about the American League Rookie of the Year award in 1982 and the MVP awards in 1983 and 1991. Cal's legacy is his sense of duty. Good things happen to good people who work hard. Good things have happened to Cal Ripken, Jr.

Mark McGuire and Sammy Sosa will send a chill up your kid's spine when they launch a baseball five hundred feet for a home run. Cal Ripken, Jr. will teach your kids a lesson. Get a job, do it well, and show up for work every day.

There isn't a man or woman in this country that cannot relate to that. I must admit, I have, during my career(s), called in sick - from the golf course! Cal puts me to shame.

Who among us hasn't put a handkerchief over the phone to cough through a "sick call" to a supervisor in order to do something fun on a work day.

Granted, to us sportsfans, baseball isn't really work. But, at a time when a hangnail can put a player on the DL for fifteen days or more, Cal, my friend's father the postal worker and the fifth grader that has never missed a school day, deserve our applause.

It's a safe bet the Orioles won't be going to the post season (again) this year, so Cal will be playing his last game at Yankee Stadium at the end of September. I hope the fans in the stands appreciate being a part of his farewell and give him his due.

As a sportsfan, I wish I could be there.

Maybe I'll make it to Cooperstown in five years.

*********************

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