Cal Ripken Jr. is somewhat of a legend in my household.
Growing up I was pretty much brainwashed to love the Baltimore Orioles and the Iron Man.
Tonight, in front of a sellout crowd, the Baltimore Orioles will honor Ripken at Camden Yards by unveiling his statue in the new outfield courtyard. As the Orioles organization prepares to honor a Baltimore legend I can’t help but reflect on my own memories of him.
Of course I remember Ripken playing and I remember the milk mustaches, but there are so many other things that come to mind as well.
First off, his wedding—you see my grandpa, Jack Dawson, used to be a sportscaster for Channel 2 News. So he and my grandma knew the Ripken family well and were invited to his wedding, which happened to take place at our church.
My mother was not invited. But that didn’t stop her and my aunt from sneaking into the balcony to see Ripken and his wife take their vows of holy matrimony. The way my mom saw it, they got married in her church—so why shouldn’t she be there?
You also can’t think of Ripken without hearing the numbers 2,131 in your head. My parents were also there for that.
They had tickets for 2,130 and of course the magical 2,131. But they also had tickets for 2,132 and 2,133—in case of a rainout—and those games were in Cleveland.
So when I was in elementary school, one day my mom showed up in the middle of the day and took me out of school. We drove from school to the airport with my dad and brother—to go to Cleveland to see Ripken.
Not many kids get to miss school for a baseball game. To this day I still remember going to that game and how cool it was. It became a running joke in our family that we could only miss school if we had a fever, a baby in our family was born, or we wanted to see Ripken.
In the years, as I have grown and become actively involved in sports reporting I have head things about Ripken that aren’t always flattering. Things I try to pretend I don’t know because it would ruin the image of the Iron Man.
But say what you will about him now, when he was in his prime he was something truly special to watch. A sportsman, a talent, a legend.
So tonight, as the Orioles honor Ripken I just want to say, “Thanks Cal. Thanks for the memories—and for getting me out of school."
What are your Cal Ripken Jr. Memories?