A little before his former team takes the field for an important game Thursday night against the New York Yankees, Hall of Fame shortstop Cal Ripken Jr., Harford County's most famous athlete, will be further immortalized, as a bronze statue of his likeness will be unveiled outside of Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Ripken's statue, the fifth of six such bronzes sculpture to be erected this season as part of the Orioles Legends Celebrations Series, will be shown to the public for the first time at 5:15 p.m. Prior to Thursday, statues of Oriole legends Earl Weaver, Jim Palmer, Frank Robinson and Eddie Murray were revealed throughout Baltimore's 2012 season.
The Ripken piece, a permanent structure like the rest, is being unveiled second to last in the series, with Hall of Fame third baseman Brooks Robinson's statue scheduled to be shown for the first time on Saturday, Sept. 29, prior to the Orioles' home game with Boston.
All six of the Orioles legends being honored are members of the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
James "Capt'n Jim" McMahan, a Harford County Councilman since 2006 and founder and former president of the Ripken Museum in Aberdeen, said Ripken is one of baseball's immortals who deserves everything that comes to him.
"There's really no other player like him, and there won't be," McMahan said Tuesday. "There was one Babe Ruth, and there's one Cal Ripken. Everyone from Harford County takes pride in the fact that he was born, raised and educated here, but in the broader sense, Cal is a national and international figure. He's done so much for baseball all over the world. He's one of the immortals, and he's just a good person to boot. He certainly deserves a prominent spot among the Orioles' greats. If I had any say in it, I'd build a hill and have him on top of it, because he's the best."
Though surely unintended, the timing of Thursday's unveiling ceremony is nothing short of perfect, as the Orioles, who were just one game behind the first-place Yankees heading into Tuesday's game with Toronto, kick off a three-game series with New York that night.
The Orioles, neck deep in the American League East Division and Wild Card races, have not made a post-season appearance since October 1997, when a then 37-year-old Ripken, who had switched from shortstop to third base that year, was playing in his 17th major-league season.
That year, Baltimore took the A.L. East with a wire-to-wire, first-place performance, then beat the Seattle Mariners in the Division Series, but fell one step short of its seventh World Series appearance with an upset defeat at the hands of Cleveland in the American League Championship Series. The Orioles' season-ending, 1-0, 11-inning loss to the Indians in game six of the 1997 ALCS was Ripken's final taste of playoff baseball, as the Orioles finished out of post-season contention each of the remaining four seasons of Ripken's career.
In 2007, Ripken was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, having received more votes, 537, than any other inductee in history and having been present on 98.5 percent of the ballots, a total beaten only by pitchers Tom Seaver and Nolan Ryan.