Yesterday's editions of The Sun carried a special section devoted to Cal Ripken Jr.'s entry into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Sprinkled throughout was a bevy of congratulatory ads, from a full-page salute to Ripken by the Ravens to another from the Energizer bunny.
But there couldn't have been a more heartfelt message than that contained in nine short lines on Page 13. The Evanses of Ruxton wanted people to know just how much Ripken meant to a beloved member of their family.
"Tim Evans, age 14, saw Cal's first game in '82 ... & hundreds in between. Planned to go to Hall of Fame but died at 38, 11/08/06 of cancer. He loved you, Cal!"
Tim Evans never met Ripken or got his autograph. Yet the two were inexorably linked by Ripken's endurance on the field and Evans' tenacity off it.
Diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 1997, Evans battled the disease for nine years -- spurred, family members said, by Ripken's example.
"Tim followed Cal's career religiously," said his brother, Michael Evans. "He identified with [Ripken's] pushing through each day without complaint.
"Even when he was getting thinner and losing his hair, Tim believed that he could go on. Cal was a quiet inspiration for my brother. There's no question that he helped Tim finish out his life."
Ripken had always been Evans' favorite sports figure. A 1986 graduate of Loyola High, Evans played goalie for Georgetown University's lacrosse team, where he wore No. 8.
A linguist, Evans was fluent in four languages and studied one year in China.
"Tim could have had a good job over there [in China], but he didn't want to leave the Orioles," said his mother, Rosalyn Evans.
In 1995, when Ripken broke Lou Gehrig's record of having played in 2,130 consecutive games, Evans was there. Likewise, he attended the Sept. 30, 2001, game in New York that was to have been Ripken's final contest before the major league schedule was changed by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Weakened by the cancer, Evans sat in a wheelchair at Yankee Stadium. But with each Orioles hit, he would leap to his feet, whoop and pump his fist in the air, said his father, John Evans.
It was that kind of inspiration that moved his family to take out the ad.
"I just wanted Cal to know about Tim," Rosalyn Evans said.
Never mind that his brother died before Ripken's induction at Cooperstown, Michael Evans said:
"He was there in spirit for sure."