Fans remember Ripken breaking 'The Streak,' his legacy in Harford County

Fans reflect on the 20th anniversary of Cal Ripken Jr.'s 2,131 consecutive game streak, which was celebrated during an Aberdeen Ironbirds game Wednesday, Sept. 2. (David Anderson and Dan Griffin, Baltimore Sun Media Group)

Jarrettsville resident Bob Skillman, 54, is a contemporary of former Baltimore Oriole and Hall of Fame baseball player Cal Ripken Jr., having watched the Harford County native play his chosen sport since both were in high school during the late 1970s.

Ripken graduated from Aberdeen in 1978, and Skillman graduated from Edgewood High School in 1979.


"Having watched him from a rival high school, it was kind of an interesting era," he said of following Ripken's career.

Skillman followed Ripken through his career with the Orioles, saw on television the historic game in September of 1995 when Ripken broke Lou Gehrig's record for consecutive games played, and he listened to Ripken Wednesday night as the Iron Man reflected on the upcoming 20th anniversary of when he completed his 2,131st game.


"He's a Harford County boy, drafted by the local team and [was] setting records doing things that couldn't be done," Skillman said.

Ripken played his record-breaking game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Sept. 6, 1995, and he sat for a brief interview Wednesday at home plate at Leidos Field at Ripken Stadium in Aberdeen about the anniversary of "The Streak."

Ripken spoke before the Aberdeen IronBirds took the field against the Lowell Spinners.

He has appeared at the stadium several times during the 2015 season for interviews on various topics about his career, the state of baseball today and in the past, his family as well as his famous streak.


Skillman was a member of the Edgewood High track team, and he recalled watching Ripken and his AHS teammates play the Rams on the baseball diamond during breaks in track practice.

"In between our training, we'd be looking down there, watching Cal throw a no-hitter or a one-hitter," he said. "There used to be some good games there."

Ripken was a pitcher as well as an infielder for the Eagles.

Wednesday's event drew fans from around the region who wanted to hear from Ripken and get his autograph.

Catonsville resident Jim Bailey was 15 years old when he sat in the stands at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on Sept. 6, 1995, and watched Ripken break Gehrig's record.

The chain of witnessing historic events in the Hall-of-Famer's baseball career did not stop there.

Bailey, who is now 35, was a sophomore at Catonsville High School when Ripken completed his 2,131st game. He went on to work for the Orioles' tarp crew during the 1996, 1997 and 1998 seasons, and he was working when Ripken ended his streak on Sept. 20, 1998.

Bailey was in the bullpen during the celebration, and he met Ripken for the first time and got his picture taken with the Iron Man.

"Nicest guy in the world, in the middle of a baseball game, he's making history, he's taking the time to talk to me," Bailey recalled.

Bailey saw Ripken again in 2007 when he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

"I was there when he broke the steak, I was there when he ended the streak and I was there when he was inducted into the Hall of Fame," Bailey said.

He attended Wednesday night's game with friends and family, including his 9-month-old son, Jacob.

"To him, Cal Ripken will be like Babe Ruth," Bailey said. "He'll grow up never having seen him play."

Bailey said he would be sure to tell his son that he did get to see Ripken in person.

Bill Reese, 70, of Bel Air, and his son Billy, 42, of Kingsville, watched the first-inning action as the IronBirds took on the Lowell Spinners.

The elder Reese said he watched on television when Ripken broke the streak, and he videotaped the game. Billy Reese was a senior at Salisbury University at the time.

Bill Reese said he seen Ripken's whole career with the Orioles, since his first season in the early 1980s.

"We were both at the '83 World Series at Memorial Stadium," Billy Reese said.

Billy recalled that Ripken hit a home run during the game he broke the streak, and Bill remembered "the lap around the field, he shook hands with all the fans, the fact that his dad was there, and his mother."

Billy is a 1991 graduate of the John Carroll School in Bel Air, and he remembers playing against Aberdeen on the same field Ripken played on.

"Growing up, he was a hometown hero," Billy said. "He was everybody's favorite player."

He said he hit a home run over the fence at the AHS field in 1990, his junior year season, the same year he had the second-highest batting average in Harford County.

"It was going through my mind, how many home runs [Ripken] hit in his high school career, and I hit a home run on the same field he did," Billy said.

Father and son cheered as IronBirds catcher Alex Murphy hit a three-run homer during the bottom of the first, tying the score, 4-4. The Spinners put four runs on the board in the top of the inning, and the 'Birds answered with four of their own.

Murphy's mother, Maria, who lives in Frederick County, was in the first row behind home plate, and a few fans congratulated her after her son's home run.

"I'm so excited for him!" she said.

Murphy's son was about 11 months old when Ripken broke the streak in 1995.

"He was just about learning to run then," she said.

He grew up playing travel baseball in the same circles as Ripken's son, Ryan, and he is close friends with Gavin Sheets, the son of former Oriole Larry Sheets.

Alex played baseball for Calvert Hall College and Sheets played for Gilman School.

Murphy said her son has been a lifelong Orioles fan, and one of the bathrooms in their family home is still decorated with a wallpaper border bearing images of Ripken from his rookie year to when he played 2,131 games.

"So now I go I there, and I say 'Oh my gosh, now he's an Oriole!" she said.

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