July 30, 2007
If thousands of strangers were going to invade their hometown to honor Cal Ripken Jr., Ted and Sean Mebust were at least going to make a buck.
"Cal Rocks because Cal rocks," they chanted as fans streamed toward yesterday's Hall of Fame induction.
The boys had collected more than 50 black rocks from their backyard and local streambeds and had painted orange 8s on them. They sold the big ones for $3 and the little ones for $1, figuring visitors might want to leave with actual pieces of Cooperstown.
By 11 a.m. yesterday, they had already sold dozens.
The boys, ages 7 and 9, have long looked forward to Ripken's induction.
"Their dad's got the night he broke the streak record on video, and he's always been the one player they've heard most about," said their mother, Lynne. "They wanted to do something special."
That something special wasn't something unique. Down the block, 11-year-olds Aaron Idelson and Scott Arnett sold more elaborately decorated rocks. They offered brown "Gwynn" stones (along with free gum) as well. They'd been smashing the rocks for weeks.
"It's great," Arnett said, "because it's pure profit."
The Sun shines for paper investor
Ray Datema of Vermont spent the weekend on Main Street, hawking copies of the Sept. 7, 1995, edition of The Sun.
Of course, that's the day after Cal Ripken played in his 2,131st consecutive game and broke Lou Gehrig's supposedly unbreakable record. It's also the day Datema and partner John Kaye ordered 3,000 copies of the paper for resale purposes.
"Most of the guys [in the Hall of Fame] are regional, but Cal is a hero for everyone," Datema said.
He has been selling the papers, some of them slightly yellowed, for $10 apiece at memorabilia shows and over the Internet and said he has only about 300 left. That would represent a massive profit over the $3,000 it cost to buy the papers and have them shipped to him.
Figurative weight is the least of it
In the days and weeks leading up to the induction ceremony, both Cal Ripken and Tony Gwynn spent plenty of time talking about the state of their nerves. While Ripken mentioned the speech and maintaining his composure, there was an unexpected obstacle that almost got him yesterday: holding his Hall of Fame plaque.
"I did think it was really heavy... that was my first feeling," he said. "You don't expect that. I thought I could drop it on my toe, it could be pretty embarrassing. There was a brief moment of that."
Each plaque weighs 35 pounds and was hung in the museum at 7 o'clock last night.
For Gwynn's part, he handled the heavy plaque with no trouble and relied on a bit of advice from Gary Carter to get through the speech itself.
"I was just telling myself, 'Look at the trees, look at the trees,' " he said.
Mom lets Cal speak for himself
Vi Ripken was asked yesterday whether she had any helpful hints for her son before he took the stage.
"I don't know," she said. "I haven't changed his diapers in a long time. He's made it this far on his own, and I'm sure he'll do fine this time on his own."
Gwynn: equal opportunity
Tony Gwynn was asked during yesterday's news conference what should be done about the declining number of African-American children playing baseball.
"I love basketball and football, too," he said, "but I tell kids to play all those sports and play baseball, too. There is a lot of opportunity there. Look at the guys who were sitting behind us up there today.
"In this day and age, kids want things fast. The game doesn't move fast enough for them."
O, whom did I forget?
Cal Ripken Jr. joked that if he thanked everyone who was deserving, it would take longer than The Streak, so there were many names that were noticeably absent from his speech, including those of teammates, managers and many members of the Orioles' organization.
Anyone holding his or her breath to hear Ripken thank team owner Peter Angelos went home disappointed.
After the ceremony, the six Hall of Famers who were inducted as Orioles -- Ripken, Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer, Frank Robinson, Brooks Robinson and Earl Weaver -- posed together for a group photo.
Praise for lunch pail set
An integral function of the Hall of Fame is putting the best players' careers into proper perspective. Keeping with that theme, Cal Ripken took time out of his speech yesterday to try to put his most famous accomplishment -- The Streak -- into perspective, noting that he's not the only one who showed up for work every day.
"I know some fans have looked at the streak as a special accomplishment, and while I appreciate that, I always looked at it as just showing up for work every day," Ripken said. "As I look out on this audience, I see thousands of people who do the same. Teachers, police officers, mothers, fathers, business people and many others.
"You all may not receive the accolades that I have throughout my career. So I'd like to take the time to salute all of you for showing up, working hard and making the world a better place. Thank you, all."
Big weekend, indeed
Hall of Fame president Dale Petroskey opened yesterday's ceremony by relaying the news that an all-time record high of 717,000 fans attended major league games Saturday. That dovetailed nicely with the fact that the Hall of Fame also set a single-day attendance record with 14,000 visitors Saturday and set an attendance record at the induction ceremony with an estimated crowd of 75,000.
[ PETER SCHMUCK]
Dale Petroskey's name was misstated in a previous version of this article.
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