“He proved that a tall man could play shortstop, enabling players like Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez to follow.”
Cal Ripken was just inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame, the first time he was on the ballot, with the third highest vote percentage ever. Growing up in Maryland, following the Orioles ever since I was ten, it was a long time before I saw a live baseball game that he didn’t play in. Well, not including my rec league games. He got an honorary degree when my sister graduated from Johns Hopkins, and I walked past him at Preakness last summer.
I still remember coming home from work on September 6th, 1995, and watching him do his victory lap as he broke Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games streak. I hadn’t really realized how much of a big deal it was until I saw that on tv.
I know that the exploits of a man who played a game for a living are pretty unimportant in a lot of ways, but in some other ways, they make a big difference to a lot of people. There’s nothing quite like sitting in the bleachers on a sunny day, throwing peanut shells on the ground and watching a baseball game. It doesn’t match the intensity of a lot of other sports, but there’s some magic there (I know, I’m being a little cheesy, sue me).
So, congratulations to Cal, and to also-deserving Tony Gwynn.