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License plates mark Ripken's drive to Hall

Proceeds from commemorative tags will go to foundation named for Cal Sr.

By Mike Klingaman

Sun Reporter

July 20, 2007

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Maryland sports fans can already buy license plates that show off their interest as hunters, bowlers and runners. But can those plates affect their cars' performance?

Enter the Cal Ripken Jr. Hall of Fame license plate, which went on sale yesterday.

"Maybe the cars with the Ripken plates will last longer," Stan Charles said. "The Iron Man never broke down, so maybe the cars won't break down, either."

The commemorative tags were the brainchild of Charles, a longtime sports talk show host who now publishes PressBox, a weekly Baltimore sports tabloid. State officials approved the plates because, as with all organizational tags, all proceeds will go to a nonprofit entity - the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, which promotes youth baseball and softball for disadvantaged kids.

The plates are available at the newspaper's Web site, PressBoxonline.com. The cost is $54.95 for a set of two. The tags commemorate Ripken's induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame on July 29.

Done in Orioles orange and black on a white background, the plates show Ripken from behind, right hand raised to the crowd. He is flanked on the left by a large orange "8," on the right by the letters HOF (Hall of Fame) and a four-digit license number.

"We can sell 9,999 of these," Charles said. By last night, he said, he had received inquiries for 200.

Few of the state's 600 organizational plates pay homage to individuals, said Buel Young, spokesman for the Motor Vehicle Administration. Most such licenses celebrate civic groups, colleges and clubs.

"What's unusual is that this one honors someone," Young said. "Am I surprised? No. In the current era of sports, Cal Ripken is very synonymous with Orioles baseball."

The top of the plate bears the familiar Maryland script, and the bottom reads: "Home of Cal Ripken Jr."

Ripken himself was "a little blown away" by the design, said his spokesman, John Maroon.

"Cal said, 'Having my face on a license plate is something I wouldn't think would have happened, but the new experiences keep coming,'" said Maroon.

The plates could be a point of pride for Marylanders as they hit the interstates, Charles said.

"It sounds corny, but this is a way for us here in Maryland to puff out our chests when we travel to Virginia, New York or Massachusetts," he said. "It's a way to show our pride in having one of the real icons of baseball - and a clean icon at that."


Ripken events

Tomorrow: Run to Cooperstown 5K, 8 a.m., Ripken Stadium, Aberdeen. Cal Ripken Jr. will start the run and present awards at the event, which benefits the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation.

Tomorrow: Calebr8ion, 11 a.m., Towson. Parade featuring Ripken runs along Washington and Pennsylvania avenues and ends at the Courthouse Plaza.

Tuesday: Hall of Fame sendoff, Camden Yards, before Orioles' 7:05 p.m. game. Brooks Robinson, Eddie Murray, Earl Weaver and Robin Roberts will attend, and Ripken will address the crowd. The Orioles are giving away 25,000 Ripken bobblehead dolls.

mike.klingaman@baltsun.com