[Following is a transcript of Cal Ripken Jr.'s speech at his sculpture unveiling ceremony Thursday at Camden Yards.]
Thank you, thank you. Just for the record, just because you stood up and clapped, I’m not taking a lap around the ball park again. Those days are over, thank you. In the beginning, I wasn’t sure what to expect from these bronze statue ceremonies. Sure these statues are for pretty good Oriolesbaseball players, but at the same time a familiar kind of Orioles magic started to appear, the magic of the Oriole Way. A deep-rooted connection developed over generations, made up of people who dedicated their lives to baseball in Baltimore. Sure, it’s a game, right? Well, not to this group. Baseball was, and is, about excellence on and off the field; baseball was, and is, about teamwork; baseball was, and is, about community. Baseball, in the end, was and is about family, one big family, the Oriole family.
Speaking of families, I want to thank the Angelos family for their renewed connection with the rich history of the Orioles. Thank you so much, Mr. Angelos, thank you so much, Mrs. Angelos, John and Lou for creating and capturing that spirit of the Oriole way through these wonderful works of art. Thank you very much. I am honored to look out and see myself among the players whose sculptures stand here. Through these statues, we all are reminded what it means to be an Oriole: local ownership, local pride, representing Baltimore and the State of Maryland in the best possible way for the rest of the country and the world. And, I might add, being an Oriole is also about playing meaningful games in September. Congratulations to Buck Showalter and his Oriole team for a great and exciting season, we are all behind you.
Thank you, Brady, for your kind words. Good stuff, especially given you only had 24 hours notice. Thank you to Toby Mendez, the sculptor; you really captured the essence of each person.
And thank you to my wonderful family- Kelly, Rachel and Ryan- for allowing me to pursue a dream. To share my career with them and now be a part of their young journey in life, there is no better gift.
Thank you to my mom, and my brothers and my sister- Ellen, Fred and Billy- who helped shape me into the person I am.
You know, a special thanks goes out to Wild Bill. No, not Wild Bill Hagy, but my brother, Bill. He is always there for me. He was a great double play partner in the field and an equally a great partner in our business. You know him as a high-energy, funny person, but there is no one more committed and sensitive to the needs of others than Bill.
You know, my love for the Orioles was born from my Dad. As a kid, I remember Dad putting on his work clothes, his uniform, and the sheer joy that would come over him as a result. Why did that make him so happy? Well, in his address to the minor leaguers on the first day of spring training, he would say, “Welcome to the greatest organization in baseball. If you make it through our system, you will play in the big leagues. It might not be with the Orioles, but you will be a big leaguer.”
Every day he would walk around saying, “It’s great to be young and an Oriole.”
Cal, Sr. was mine and Billy’s dad, but he also was a father figure to many others. Eddie, Jim, Brady, not you, Earl, sorry about that. You were Dad’s father figure and a father figure to many others as well. But as we now know Earl, Eddie was your favorite.
And the other father figures from this organization that I want us to remember: George Bamberger, [inaudible], Billy Hunter, [inaudible], Jimmy Williams, [inaudible], Bob Giordano, Dick [inaudible], [inaudible], [inaudible], Billy Miller and Doc Edwards, because I will remember them.
These ceremonies at times have been extremely emotional, drawing from the real experiences of success and failure. We celebrate success, and we also at least find out who we are in failure. These are the life lessons that play out on the baseball field. These are the life lessons learned from men like Earl, Cal, Sr., Frank, Eddie, Brooks, Jim and so many more who wore the Oriole uniform. This is the Oriole Way.
[Below are Ripken's responses during a news conference that followed the ceremony.]
On giving the speech:
“It was a totally different experience. I missed Frank’s, and then I’ve come to every one since. They are a little bit nerve-racking, a little bit emotional. Many of the ones mention my Dad. Jim mentioned him, Eddie mentioned him. It starts to get you thinking. So today, I thought by preparing a speech and practicing it a hundred times that I could get some of the emotions out of the speech. But sure enough, it’s the moment of truth that hits you, which I guess is a really good thing. And my comments are, right before the game, that it was really cool, it is really cool. And I think it’s really symbolic of the connection to the Oriole history and the Oriole past. It’s very appropriate that, this team right here this year, is playing so well. This is a huge series, so there’s a lot of great excitement out there.”
On the importance of September 6:
“The irony to me is that September 6, 1995, I wanted so desperately for us to be in the race and playing for a pennant, playing for a playoff position. We were a little bit further out at that time and then the focus became a little bit more on the game streak. It was important for us to play well as a team during that time and it was important for me to perform well during that time. It’s not OK to just show up, it’s important to do well. So coming in September 6, it feels really good to walk into that stadium and see the excitement, to see such a big series in September against the Yankees and only one game that separates the two teams. Certainly it adds to it when you play the Yankees, but this is an exciting time for this team.”
On the current Orioles team:
“I’m really happy that J.J. Hardy caught my lame first pitch. It was a ball, but normally you don’t have to throw over a statue to get it to home plate. J.J., I saw him play with Milwaukee, I always admired him, I always admired the intangibles that he brings, the leadership he brings, the stability that he brings. I thought that was a big factor in bringing him here as a shortstop and him performing in the middle of the field. If you look around, they have All-Star caliber players at many different positions. The question always is, for every team, is the pitching going to keep you in the ball game? The pitching, although it’s changed a little bit, we found some surprises in the second half, the pitching is keeping them in there. The Orioles are playing really well. I don’t think anybody could have projected. I think everyone was hoping that they would continue to develop and that they would be challenging for the Wild Card, but this is exciting. It’s been a while since you’re watching, you’re checking up, you’re listening everywhere you are to what’s happening in the game, so it’s exciting for me.”
On Billy’s words:
“Billy’s a fantastic speaker. He really communicates well. Sometimes he gets up on his soapbox in some ways. We laugh and kid when we do our radio show together. He knows the game really well. He has great timing and a great sense of humor. I asked both Brady and him a little bit late. I let this sneak up on me a little bit. Both of them are very meaningful to me and I’m very appreciative that they took the time out to make a few remarks.”
On the sculpture:
“The whole thing is to capture the essence of the player. Yes, I got a chance to see it early. Yes, I got the chance to have input if I wanted to. But the creative process was already there and was already going, and I trusted the process. Certainly, the backhand kind-of stretch play in the hole, I made that many times. I was longer, I was rangier, I was bigger and that signified, or symbolized, a bigger person playing the position of shortstop. I was very proud of the success I had there. I was very proud of the time that I played there. I think maybe in a small way I changed the dialogue that says, ‘Maybe a bigger guy can play in the shortstop position’. So I was very proud of that. I’m very proud of the pose. It looks like me and I think it captures who I was as a shortstop.”
On being remembered:
“Well I guess that’s all you have now. I used to deflect your questions years ago by saying, ‘there will be a time when you can sit back in your rocking chair and reflect’. I really haven’t sat back in a rocking chair and reflected too much. It does make you feel good being remembered. Remembered at all is certainly a compliment. This particular ceremony the meaning was clear, it’s not about me. It was about the history of the Orioles, a celebration of the Orioles, the connection to what the Oriole Way stood for. Yes, you go up and down in your franchise’s history, but the Orioles have come back to competition, a very competitive team, a playoff team in September. For me, I look around at all the great players and all the meaning that the Oriole Way represented and I wanted to try to speak to that. It wasn’t about me, it was about the Oriole family, and I had an opportunity to say that. So this was different in many respects, a little more heartfelt. I really enjoyed being with the guys. Eddie’s ceremony, I got a chance to really spend some time with Eddie during this process. Not that you need an excuse to do it, but certainly we’re all busy and doing things. But when there was a rain delay on the field, I really enjoyed just being in the dugout watching the rain and talking to some of the guys. Jim Thome down there, Wayne Kirby, those are the things you’re going to miss. It’s not your hits, it’s not your homers, it’s not your successes on the field; it’s the meaning of people. This process has brought that out to me. I’ve enjoyed it immensely. I didn’t know what to expect. I’m thrilled to be a part of it and I’m very honored that there’s a statue out there with my likeness on it.”
On the streak:
“I do reflect on this particular subject quite a bit because I’m asked about it. You look back on your career and you ask yourself “What if?” I’m very satisfied that I approached the game in the way that I thought I should approach it. There’s a sense of responsibility as a baseball player to play. The manager chooses you to play, and that’s how that streak got started and you’re worthy enough to be put in the lineup. As the streak went on, I took pride in it, but I wasn’t obsessed with it. I didn’t change anything that I did in my life. I wasn’t careful. I wrestled people in the clubhouse. I played the game as hard as I could. I just tried to do it the right way and only played it one game at a time. I’m extremely proud of the fact that I could have been counted on to play and what the streak ultimately represented, but I wasn’t obsessed with it and I wouldn’t be terribly upset if somebody broke it. It would be a value and a journey and an effort of doing things the right way. I’d be happy for him. If I can do it, certainly someone else can. I know there are a unique set of circumstances. I know there is a whole lot more protective environment around a player that you’ve invested money in right now, so it’s a custom to resting up and getting yourself healthy so you’re there for the long haul. If I can do it, certainly someone else can.”
On Manny Machado:
“You can’t help but be impressed; his poise, his maturity. I think him coming up to play third base has helped stabilize the Orioles defense. They had, for a while, a revolving door between third base and first base with a lot of different players there. It’s OK to utilize your players in different roles. Buck did a nice job and the Orioles did a nice job of getting value out of everybody, but there is value in having the stability of one person in that position, and certainly when I look at Manny, he understands himself, he understands the game and he understands what he has to work on. I think ultimately it will help him a lot by playing third if he does go back to shortstop. He’ll be a better shortstop as a result of his experience at third. Right now, the Orioles are a better team with him playing third every day.”
On Buck and the current players:
“Buck Showalter and company have reached out and embraced the community in every way they can. I think it was awesome that Buck was out there and the players were out there during the ceremonies. They represented. That was really cool, there was a connection to the past. I know Buck is doing many other things, and his thought process to bridge that and see the value in that. But ultimately it is success; success on the field. At the big league level you’re selling winning. So keep doing what you’re doing, playing meaningful games in September. Keep playing meaningful baseball. This is a great baseball town. They’ll be back.”Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun