Calvin Edwin Ripken, Jr. (born August 24, 1960 in Havre de Grace, Maryland), commonly known as Cal or Cal Jr., is a shortstop and third baseman in Major League Baseball who played his entire career for the Baltimore Orioles from 1981 to 2001. A 19-time MLB All-Star, Ripken is considered one of the best shortstops to ever play the game. At 6' 4" (1.93 m), he pioneered the way for the taller and larger shortstops. He was raised in Aberdeen, Maryland, by a baseball family. His father, Cal Sr., was a long-time coach in baseball who managed the Orioles in the late 1980s. Ripken attended Aberdeen High School as did his brother Billy, who later played second base for various teams, including the Orioles. He has two other siblings, Elly and Fred. He is married to the former Kelly Geer and has a daughter, Rachel, born in 1989 and a son, Ryan, born in 1993.
Ripken earned the nickname "Iron Man, doggedly remaining in the lineup despite numerous minor injuries. He played in a record 2,632 straight games spanning sixteen seasons, from May 30, 1982 to September 20, 1998. He played his 2,131st consecutive game on September 6, 1995, against the California Angels, breaking the 56-year-old record set by the "Iron Horse" Lou Gehrig, the legendary New York Yankees first baseman. Ripken hit a home run in game 2,130 and game 2,131, moving fans to the point that his 2,131st consecutive game was named Major League Baseball's "Most Memorable Moment" in MLB history. Ripken was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility on January 9, 2007.
Ripken, as a member of the Rochester Red Wings
(the Orioles Triple-A farm club at the time), played in the longest professional baseball game
. Ripken started at third base and played all 33 innings against the Pawtucket Red Sox
in a game that took parts of three days to complete. He made his big-league debut in a strike year
. His consecutive game streak record-breaker, 14 years later, would be seen by many as a bright spot following the devastating 1994 strike
. For example, the writeup in the 1996 Sporting News Baseball Guide
, which called it "what almost everyone considered the high point of the major league season." Ripken would eventually win the shortstop job from veteran Mark Belanger
, an eight-time Gold Glover.
Ripken split time between short and third base in 1981 and 1982, but he started to achieve prominence right away. Ripken homered in his very first at bat of the first game of the Orioles '82 season against Kansas City. His streak started in May of '82, and he hit 28 home runs that year en route to the American League's Rookie of the Year Award
Ripken took an even bigger step forward in 1983, when he earned the first of his 19 All-Star berths and was named the American League MVP
in 1983, hitting .318 batting average with 27 home runs and 102 RBI. His fielding percentage that year was .970. He would go on to hit at least 20 home runs for an additional eight straight seasons, he hit over 20 home runs in ten consecutive seasons[1982–1991] which was unheard of at the time for a shortstop.
The Orioles defeated the Chicago White Sox in the ALCS before beating the Philadelphia Phillies 4 games to 1 in the 1983 World Series. In the series Cal hit .167 with 0 homers and 1 RBI. Although an offensive non-factor, he let his glove do the talking with his usual clutch play at shortstop, and made the final out of the series on a Garry Maddox lineout in Game 5.
1987 was a family affair year for Ripken as his dad, Cal Ripken, Sr.
, who was a former player, coach, and scout for the Orioles became manager of the club. That year, he became the first manager to write two of his sons into the lineup card when both Ripken Jr and his brother and fellow Oriole Billy Ripken
played in the same game. However, after going 67–95 in 1987 and beginning the 1988 season 0–6, Ripken Sr was fired by the Orioles. On September 22, Cal Sr. decided to take Ripken out of a game (replaced by Ron Washington
) in the eighth inning, thus ending Ripken's streak of 8,243 consecutive innings. Cal Sr. ended this streak because he believed it was too much of a distraction to the team.
While Ripken narrowly missed out on a Gold Glove in 1990—when he made just three errors in 162 games, he had career year in 1991. Ripken led the American League with 111 hits and a .348 batting average at the All-Star Break
. He finished the season by hitting .323/.374/.566 over 650 plate appearances, with 34 HR and 114 RBI. In addition to that, Ripken hit 46 doubles, stole a career-high 6 bases and was caught once, and also hit 5 triples, while posting his career lowest strikeout rate and lowest number of strikeouts in a season with 600 or more plate appearances. His 1991 season is the fourth-greatest in baseball history (second among non-pitchers) as measured by WARP3
at 17.0 wins, bested only by Walter Johnson
's 1913 (18.1 wins), Babe Ruth
's 1932 (18 wins), and Amos Rusie
's 1894 season (17.6 wins).
Ripken won his second AL MVP award, the Gold Glove Award, 1991 All Star game MVP award (going 2 for 3 including a 3-run home run off Dennis Martínez), the Gatorade Home Run Derby contest (hitting a then record 12 home runs in 22 swings, including 7 consecutive homers to start the contest), Louisville Slugger "Silver Slugger Award", AP Player of the Year Award, and The Sporting News Player of the Year Award. The only other player in MLB history to win all those awards in the same season, excluding the Home Run Derby, was Maury Wills in 1962.
Ripken also became the first player ever to win the Home Run Derby and be named All Star Game MVP in the same year. The only other player that has accomplished this feat is Garret Anderson of the Anaheim Angels in 2003. He was the first AL MVP in MLB history to win the award while playing with a sub .500 club. The Orioles finished in 6th place that year with a 67–95 record.
At the end of the 1991 season, Memorial Stadium, the Orioles' home since 1954, saw its last MLB game against the Detroit Tigers. Ripken was the last Oriole to bat at Baltimore's Memorial Stadium, hitting into a double play against Detroit's Frank Tanana on Oct. 6, 1991.
Ripken achieved a personal milestone on July 10, 1993, when he collected his 2,000th career hit, during a game at Oriole Park against the Chicago White Sox
. This came on the Saturday of "All-Star Weekend", just prior to the All-Star Game
played at Camden Yards on July 13.
On September 6, 1995, many baseball fans within and out of the United States tuned in to cable TV network ESPN
to watch Ripken surpass Lou Gehrig
's 56-year-old record for consecutive games played (2,130 games). The game, between the Orioles and the California Angels
, still ranks as one of the network's most watched baseball games. Cal's children, Rachel and Ryan, threw out the ceremonial first balls. Both President Bill Clinton
and Vice-President Al Gore
were at the game. President Clinton was in the WBAL
local radio broadcast booth when Ripken hit a home run
in the fourth inning, and called the home run over the air. When the game became official after the Angels' half of the fifth inning, the numerical banners that displayed Ripken's streak on the wall of the B&O Warehouse
outside the stadium's right field wall changed from 2130 to 2131. Everyone attending (including the opposing Angels and all four umpires) erupted with a standing ovation lasting more than 22 minutes, one of the longest standing ovations for any athlete; ESPN did not go to a commercial break during the entire ovation. During the ovation, Cal also did a lap around the entire Camden Yards warning track to shake hands and give high-fives to the fans. The humble superstar had to be convinced by his teammates (who in fact playfully shoved him out of the dugout) to take a victory lap around the stadium, shaking hands and creating a highlight reel moment that's been replayed repeatedly in the ensuing years.
"It was very spontaneous. I was feeling a sense of anxiety that it was unfair to stop the game in the middle of the game. You felt for the pitchers -- it's almost like a rain delay. I just kept saying to myself, 'okay, let's get the game started. Thank you very much. I'll celebrate it as much as you want after it's over, but let's stay with the game.
"Bobby Bonilla and Rafael Palmeiro pushed me out of the dugout and said, 'Hey, if you don't do a lap around this thing, we'll never get the game started.' I thought it was a ridiculous sort of thing, ...but as I started to do it, the celebration of 50,000 started to be very one-on-one and very personal. I started seeing people I knew. ...Those were the people that had been around the ballpark all those years, and it was really a wonderful human experience."
On June 14 at Kauffman Stadium
in Kansas City against the Royals, Ripken broke the world record of consecutive games played of 2,216. The record had been held by Sachio Kinugasa
of Japan. Kinugasa was at the game to watch Ripken break his record. On July 15th,
Ripken was moved to third base as an experiment, with Manny Alexander
taking the shortstop position. In the first inning, Ripken dove for a grounder down the line and threw from his knees to get the runner out at first. This was the first time someone other than Cal Ripken had started a game at shortstop for the Orioles since 1982.
Following the 1996 season, Cal Ripken released an autobiography, titled 'The Only Way I Know.'
The Orioles signed free agent shortstop Mike Bordick from Oakland and moved Ripken back to third base permanently.
On September 20, before the final home game of the season against the New York Yankees, Ripken decided to end his streak at 2,632 games, having surpassed Gehrig's previous record by exactly 502 games. Rookie third baseman Ryan Minor
started in his place. Realizing that the streak was coming to an end, the fans, his teammates, and the visiting Yankees (with Derek Jeter
being the first to notice that Ripken was not playing during batting practice) gave Ripken an ovation after the game's first out was recorded. Ripken later stated that he decided to end the streak at the end of the season, to avoid any off-season controversy about his playing status, not to mention he wanted to end the streak entirely on his own terms while he still could.
In 1999, Ripken had his statistically best season since 1991. Although he was injured at the beginning and the end of the 1999 season, he managed to hit 18 homers in only 332 at-bats (one HR every 18.4 AB's) while hitting a career high .340. He also had the best individual game of his career, going 6 for 6 with 2 homers off John Smoltz
and tying a club record with 13 total bases
against the Atlanta Braves
on June 13, 1999.
Ripken's 1999 season ended early due to injury when he was only 9 hits away from joining the 3000 hit club. He finally achieved the milestone early in the 2000 season when he singled off reliever Héctor Carrasco in a game against the Minnesota Twins on April 15, 2000 in the Metrodome. Ripken had a good night at the plate, getting three hits, the third of which was the milestone. The Twins distributed a commemorative certificate to the fans as they left the Metrodome after the game.
In June 2001, Ripken announced he would retire at the end of the season. He was voted the starting third baseman in the All-Star game at Safeco Field
on July 10, 2001, in Seattle
. In a tribute to Ripken's achievements and stature in the game, shortstop Alex Rodriguez
(unknowingly foreshadowing his own future) insisted on exchanging positions with third baseman Ripken for the first inning, so that Ripken could play shortstop as he had for most of his career. In the third inning, Ripken made his first plate appearance and was greeted with a standing ovation. Ripken then homered off the first pitch from Chan Ho Park
. Ripken ended up with All Star MVP honors. He is the only AL player in MLB history with multiple All Star Game MVP Awards (1991 and 2001).
The Orioles planned to retire Ripken's #8 in a ceremony before the final home game of the 2001 season, on September 23. Ripken's final game was originally set to be played at Yankee Stadium; however, the September 11, 2001 attacks led to the postponement of a week's worth of games. The games missed were added on to the end of the season's schedule. Since all the games the Orioles missed were at home, this changed the location of Ripken's final game to Oriole Park, much to the delight of Orioles fans. Cal Ripken ended his career in the on deck circle in the bottom of the ninth inning. Long-time teammate Brady Anderson, also playing in his last game for the Orioles, swung and missed a fastball high and tight on a 3–2 count to end the game. After the game, Ripken gave a speech thanking the fans for their support over 20 seasons.
In his final season, Ripken had the lowest zone rating of all major league third basemen (.734).
Ripken has also made donations to charity causes, including many donations supporting research on Lou Gehrig's disease
. He and his brother Billy also formed the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation to give underprivileged children the opportunity to attend baseball camps around the country and learn the game. The Foundation is a branch of Ripken Baseball. In addition to controlling these camps and Ripken's minor league teams, Ripken Baseball operates for-profit camps and designs ballfields for youth, college, and professional teams. He also gives speeches about his time in baseball and some of the lessons he has learned. Between 2001 and 2004, inclusive, Ripken served as commissioner
of the White House Tee Ball Initiative
of President George W. Bush
, in which capacity he worked to promote the value of teamwork amongst players and volunteership amongst the public and helped to teach tee ball
fundamentals to teams of children at the White House
Cal Ripken retired on October 6, 2001. He is a part owner of the New York-Penn League's Aberdeen IronBirds, the Short-season Class A affiliate Minor League Baseball team within the Orioles' system. The team plays at Ripken Stadium in Cal's hometown of Aberdeen, Maryland.
On June 28, 2005, he announced that he was also purchasing the Augusta GreenJackets of the South Atlantic League, a Class A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants.
In 2005, the Orioles honored Ripken on the 10th anniversary of his 2,131st consecutive game. After the top of the 5th inning, the numbers 2130 on the warehouse behind the stadium changed to 2131, just as they did on September 6, 1995.
In 2007, Cal Ripken, Jr. along with Andre Agassi
, Muhammad Ali
, Lance Armstrong
, Warrick Dunn
, Mia Hamm
, Jeff Gordon
, Tony Hawk
, Andrea Jaeger
, Jackie Joyner-Kersee
, Mario Lemieux
, and Alonzo Mourning
founded Athletes for Hope, a charitable organization, which helps professional athletes get involved in charitable causes and inspires millions of non-athletes to volunteer and support the community.
On January 9, 2007, Cal Ripken, Jr. was elected to the Hall of Fame, appearing on 537 out of 545 of the ballots cast (98.53%), eight votes short of a unanimous selection. His percentage is the third highest in history, behind Tom Seaver who received 98.84 percent of the vote and Nolan Ryan who received 98.79 percent, and the highest ever for a regular position player. Tony Gwynn, who also appeared on his first ballot, was chosen alongside Ripken. Both Hall of Fame-Elects were formally inducted on July 29, 2007. The induction ceremony was attended by a record 75,000 people including special guests of Ripken: John Travolta, Richard Gere and Brett Herman.
On January 10, 2007, Ripken expressed interest in purchasing the Baltimore Orioles if current owner Peter Angelos were to sell the team. He has yet to be approached about the potential purchase of the team. At a National Press Club speech in Washington D.C. on April 13, 2007 he denied having an interest in purchasing the Orioles due to lack of sufficient funds.
Ripken is still a popular figure in Baltimore and Washington, DC area advertising, and frequently appears in regional commercials for Comcast cable and internet service. His appearance at a Washington Capitals game on February 10, 2007, prompted a standing ovation from the crowd.
In April 2007, he released two books, Get in the Game, described as a motivational guide to success, and The Longest Season, a children's book about the Orioles' 1988 season. He also writes a weekly youth sports advice newspaper column in the Baltimore Sun which is syndicated nationwide and has produced a line of baseball training videos.
On April 9, 2007, Ripken announced a partnership with the recently-formed "Reviving Baseball in the Inner City" program, with the donation of US$1 million in cash and equipment from the Cal Ripken Sr Foundation.
On August 13, 2007, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced that Ripken has been named Special Sports Envoy for the US State Department and that he will be going to China in October. "And we're just delighted that somebody of Cal Ripken's stature is going to be someone who will go out and represent America so well and represent what we consider to be American values, but also universal values; that hard work and stick-to-it-ness and the willingness to really put it all on the line every day is something that kids need to learn," said Rice.
In October 2007, Ripken began working as a studio analyst for TBS Sports during the 2007 Major League Baseball playoffs.
On February 28, 2008, Ripken announced his venture into the massively multiplayer online sports game market with "Cal Ripken's Real Baseball
On March 30, 2008, I-395 Eastern's Branch in Baltimore, from I-95 to Conway Street, was to dedicated to Cal Ripken, Jr. This stretch of I-395 is now called Cal Ripken Way.
On May 31, 2008, Ripken received an honorary doctorate from the University of Delaware, for "Doctor of Humanities," and also served as the university's commencement speaker.
At 6 ft 4 in, 225 lb (1.93 m, 102 kg), Ripken was a departure from the prototypical shortstop of the time — small, fleet-of-foot players who played a defensively difficult position but often did not post the home run and batting average totals that an outfielder might. Power hitting shortstops such as Alex Rodriguez
and Miguel Tejada
are often seen to be part of Ripken's legacy.
Nonetheless, Ripken demonstrated the ability to play excellent defense at shortstop, and as a result remained a fixture there for well over a decade, leading the league in assists several times, winning the Gold Glove twice, and, in 1990, setting the MLB record for best fielding percentage in a season at his position. Though not a flashy fielder, Ripken displayed excellent fundamentals, and studied batters and even his own pitching staff so he could position himself to compensate for his lack of physical speed, even calling pitches at times. Ripken's legacy as a fielder is reflected by his place near the top of almost every defensive statistical category — he holds at least one all-time record (for either season, career, or most seasons leading the league) in assists, putouts, fielding percentage, double plays, and fewest errors.
Ripken's power, which led to records like the most home runs by shortstop and 13th for career doubles, also had some consequences. His propensity to drive the ball often led to his grounders getting to fielders quickly for tailor-made double-play balls. In 1999, Ripken passed Hank Aaron as the player who had grounded into the most double plays in his career — interestingly enough, he is also second on the fielding side for double plays by a shortstop.
Billy and Cal Ripken are one of only four two-brother combinations in major league history to play second base/shortstop on the same club, Baltimore Orioles, during the 1980s. The others are Garvin and Granny Hamner, for the Philadelphia Phillies in 1945; the twins Eddie and Johnny O'Brien, with the Pittsburgh Pirates in the mid-1950s, and Frank and Milt Bolling, for the Detroit Tigers in 1958.
On September 23, 2001, the NASCAR Winston Cup series and MBNA re-named the fall race at Dover International Speedway in Dover, DE naming the race the MBNA Cal Ripken Jr. 400. The race paid tribute to Ripken's legacy and he was also in attendance greeting the competing drivers as they crossed the stage during driver introductions. Driver Bobby Labonte had a special paint scheme on his #18 Interstate Batteries car featuring Baltimore Orioles colors along with Ripken's retirement seal. The race was won by Dale Earnhardt Jr., who was then driving the #8 car (coincidentally matching Ripken's jersey number).
Awards and records
- 1982: American League Rookie of the Year
- 1983: American League Most Valuable Player
- 1983: American League Silver Slugger Award (SS)
- 1984: American League Silver Slugger Award (SS)
- 1985: American League Silver Slugger Award (SS)
- 1986: American League Silver Slugger Award (SS)
- 1989: American League Silver Slugger Award (SS)
- 1991: American League Most Valuable Player
- 1991: MLB All-Star Game Most Valuable Player
- 1991: American League Gold Glove Award (SS)
- 1991: American League Silver Slugger Award (SS)
- 1992: Roberto Clemente Award
- 1992: Lou Gehrig Memorial Award
- 1992: American League Gold Glove Award (SS)
- 1993: American League Silver Slugger Award (SS)
- 1994: American League Silver Slugger Award (SS)
- 1995: Sports Illustrated magazine's "Sportsman of the Year"; The Sporting News' "Sportsman of the Year"
- 1999: Ranked Number 78 on The Sporting News' list of the 100 Greatest Baseball Players
- 1999: Elected to the Major League Baseball All-Century Team.
- 2001: MLB All-Star Game Most Valuable Player
- 2001: Ranked third greatest shortstop all-time in the The New Bill James Historical Abstract.
- 2001: Uniform number (8) retired by the Baltimore Orioles
- 2007: Elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame by 98.53 percent of voters. The highest percentage of votes ever for a position player, as well as third highest overall.
- 2007: Inducted to the Baseball Hall of Fame on July 29th with the San Diego Padres' great Tony Gwynn in front of a record crowd of 75,000 people
- Most consecutive games played at 2,632
- Most grounded into double plays at 350
- Most home runs by a shortstop at 345
- Most double plays by a shortstop, American League, at 1,682
- All-time leader in MLB All-Star fan balloting (36,123,483)
- Most MLB All-Star Game appearances at shortstop (15) - 1983-1996, 2001
- Most consecutive MLB All-Star Game starts (17)
- Games Played, 3,001
- Consecutive games, 2,632
- At bats, 11,551
- Hits, 3,184
- Runs, 1,647
- RBI, 1,695
- Extra Base Hits, 1078
- Doubles, 603
- Home runs, 431 (Baltimore has had five members of the 500 home run club on its roster, but none have hit more with the Orioles than Ripken)
- Total Bases, 5168
- Walks, 1,129
- Strikeouts, 1,305
- Assists, 8,212
- Double Plays, 1,682