If the term "mob scene" could be applied to a joyous event, such as that of a beloved local ballplayer being immortalized with a bronze statue of his likeness being installed at the park where he spent half of his Hall of Fame career, then the scene at Camden Yards on Thursday, when Cal Ripken Jr.'s long-awaited sculpture was unveiled to the public for the first time, would be it.
Ripken's bronze likeness was uncovered on Thursday night in the picnic area of Oriole Park, two hours before the Baltimore Orioles, currently in the heat of the American League East pennant race, began an important four-game series with the New York Yankees. Next to the statue sat a small stage from which Ripken and other Orioles' luminaries gave their thoughts on Ripken's career and Thursday's events.
Outside of the park's picnic area, which was cordoned off for press and visiting VIPs, waited a sea of Orioles fans 15 deep on all sides. Thursday's game with the Yankees, a battle for first place in the AL East, was more than an hour away, and the stadium was already half full.
Once unveiled, Ripken's statue was revealed to be an action rendering of the former shortstop bent over with his glove outstretched, reaching for a ball in the hole for ages to come.
Attending the ceremonies were former Orioles and fellow Hall of Fame members Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer, Earl Weaver and Brooks Robinson, all of whom will have statues dedicated to them as part of the series. Murray's was the most recent to be unveiled, on Aug. 11, while Robinson's will be shown in a ceremony on Sept. 29. Weaver, Palmer and Frank Robinson's statues were unveiled earlier this season.
Ripken's brother Bill and their former teammate Brady Anderson both spoke before Cal stepped to the microphone. Bill Ripken spent some time putting his brother's all-time consecutive games played record into perspective. At times during Cal Ripken's career, the media sometimes claimed the streak was a distraction for the rest of the team.
"[It] was about giving us the best chance to win every day," Bill Ripken said. "The streak didn't define [him]."
Cal Ripken spoke last at the ceremony, thanking his family, most notably his father, first, and coming close to tears while doing so.
Speaking of having his statue among the other Orioles' immortals, Harford County's most famous athlete and personality had this to say:
"Through these statues, we are reminded what it means to be an Oriole. Local ownership, and local pride in representing Baltimore and the state of Maryland in the best possible way to the country and the world."