COOPERSTOWN, N.Y.—The Iron Man of preparation knew that an emotional outburst was likely, no matter how many times he had rehearsed his Hall of Fame induction speech.
In fact, Cal Ripken Jr., the Aberdeen boy turned Orioles legend, had identified three "hot spots" he thought might cause him to break down while speaking to a record crowd of approximately 75,000 at yesterday's Hall of Fame induction.
He got through it without a quiver.
"I chose my wording so it wouldn't be so emotional," he said later.
Then it was time to talk about his mom, Vi, who was watching from the first row.
The fans might have saved him on that one - because after his first few words about her, the crowd cheered so loudly that he had to take a momentary and unplanned break.
"Mom," Ripken then continued confidently. "The words are hard to find to let you know how much I love you back."
Two down; one more emotional pitfall remained.
The normally stoic Ripken got one sentence into addressing daughter Rachel, 17, and son Ryan, 14, before it happened.
Hot spot No. 3 was just too much.
"They not only gave me a whole new understanding on life, but they also continue to bring me pride as they ... "
His voice trailed off. He bit his bottom lip and brushed a tear away.
The crowd roared its approval.
Ripken finished his thought: "As they continue to grow and meet life's challenges. I am so proud to stand here today to tell them how much I love and care for them."
He was now past the children reference, but Hot Spot No. 3 also included a tribute to his wife of nearly 20 years, Kelly, or as he said, "the love of my life."
Six words into it, he had to stop again. More emotion, more tears, more applause. But, as Ripken nearly always did during his 21-season career as the Orioles' All-Star shortstop and third baseman, he rallied.
"You didn't know anything about baseball or me when we first met," he said. "But you have led and stood by me and supported me through all the years together. Kelly, I want you to know how much I appreciate your love."
Then he provided the induction ceremony with its only sight gag of the day. He took out a white rose, placed it back in his suit jacket and then said, "Ryan, I might need a little help transporting this."