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Thoughts on Ripken

Richie Bancells, Orioleshead athletic trainer: "Some of my fondestmemories... came at theunfortunate time whenhe was having his backproblems. We wouldstart his rehab programat 8:30 a.m. at his house.This was during the middleof winter. He had meoutline the program ongrease boards in hisworkout room. He had tohave a plan, as always. ...I doubt that in my careerI will have another ballplayer withthat kind ofintensity and dedicationto his profession. Duringthat time he had the badback, he was telling mehe was going to get me inshape!"

Fred Tyler, Oriolesvisiting clubhousemanager: "Cal's career is noted forits consistency, and so,too, is his signature. Hemeticulously dotted the'i' in Ripken and periodafter 'Jr.' ... Cal chose theright pen for the type ofmaterial and made sureto flatten each jersey'ssigning surface. ...Calmade sure that each signature wasas good asthe last. There was noroom for shortcuts in hisgame or his autograph."

Chris Berman,ESPN broadcaster, whodid play-by-play for the2,131 game: "When Cal arrived in theclubhouse before thegame, we were set up tomeet him to conduct abrief interview. I lookedat him with a straightface and said, 'Cal youthink you might get in tonight?'Cal laughed, andthen we had a great interview forthe telecast.Next time I saw him, hethanked me for, at leastfor 30 seconds, lettinghim laugh and relax onthat unbelievable night."

Mike Flanagan, Orioles executive vice president: "When Cal first came upto the big leagues in '82,he didn't play every day.And the days that hedidn't play, he woulddrive everyone in thedugout crazy asking hundredsof questions - 'Why are we playing himthis way?' 'Why are wepitching him that way?' - one after another. Hehad this boundless energy.He'd wrestle his teammatesin the dugout, andfinally we turned to Earl[Weaver] and said,'Please, please, pleaseput him in the lineup.'"

Ernie Tyler, Oriolesfield attendant: "After Cal got drafted [in1978], he was assigned toBluefield. Cal Sr.wasthird base coach withthe big league team, andI'd dress at a locker rightnext to his. After everygame, I remember howSenior would sit at hislocker and wait until theBluefield game wasdone, then call the managerdown there to seehow Cal had done thatnight. He never calledCal to ask. He'd alwayscall the manager."

Buster Olney, ESPNbaseball reporter andformer Orioles beatwriter for The Sun: "Cal collapsed into abatting slump immediatelyafter he brokeLou Gehrig's consecutive-game record, hardlya surprise given theextraordinary energythat he had expendedon those remarkabledays and the days leadingup to them. His battingaverage slid downwardin mid-September -- not that anyonereally cared.

"They had a daygame in Detroit, andhe struggled at theplate again. The fansfiled out, and the writers wentinto theshoebox clubhouse atold Tiger Stadium andtalked to Cal and theother Orioles, and returnedto the press boxto write our stories.

"About an hour afterthe game ended, a lonefigure stepped out ofthe dugout and walkedonto an otherwiseempty field. It was Cal,and he had a battingtee and a bucket ofbaseballs. He set thetee on home plate,stood in the right-handedbatter's box,set the first of perhaps50 balls from the bucketon the tee -- andproceeded to sprayballs all over Tiger Stadium,one by one. Calwas in a slump, hedidn't like it, and thiswas his way of findinga solution.

"He emptied thebucket, then walkedaround the field retrievingall the ballshimself; there was anation of baseball fansand some clubhousekids who would havedone this for him, butCal did it -- his penance,it seemed, for hisslump. Then he returnedto home plate,and started over, hittingballs into the twilight."

Steve Phillips,ESPN commentatorand former New YorkMets generalmanager: "More than any otherplayer in its history, CalRipken understandswhat makes baseball agreat game. It's not thegreat players, but thegreat fans.

"Cal respected thegame. More importantly,he respected thepeople who paid hissalary -- the fans."

Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun
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