Huge mural to honor Ripken, sell sneakers Shortstop to grace downtown building


To Orioles fans, Cal Ripken Jr. already is larger than life. But he'll be 10 times larger than life-size when a giant advertising mural of the star shortstop is painted on a downtown building.

Mr. Ripken's image will appear on a mural -- 64 feet high and 23 feet wide -- on a vacant building owned by Household Bank on Light Street near Lombard, which formerly housed Jos. A. Bank Clothiers and the old Playboy Club.

The city's Board of Municipal and Zoning Appeals yesterday voted unanimously to allow a local company to paint the mural and leave it on the wall for three years as Mr. Ripken chases, and, it is hoped, exceeds Lou Gehrig's consecutive games-played streak.

"I'm delighted. I love it, and I think it's wonderful for the city," said Giavonna A. Blattermann as she voted for the mural.

Joseph B. Hevia, president of Mass Transit Communications -- Wallscapes, has a contract with the Nike advertising firm, OSI, to paint the mural, displaying the shoemaker's logo on the bottom. He said the mural will be finished by year's end, at a cost of $7,000 to $16,000. He said the company will pay $2,000 a month to rent the space.

Nike has advertising murals of Michael Jordan in Chicago, John McEnroe in New York, and Bo Jackson and Carl Lewis in Los Angeles.

Mr. Hevia declined to say how much his 3-year-old company will earn in the deal. He said the painting will not change for at least three years.

"If for any reason there's going to be a change, let's say there will be a football team, we'll come to you first," he told the zoning board.

"You'll have to," Ms. Blattermann replied.

The Ripken mural will show the shortstop at the plate after a swing, starting to run to first base.

Plans call for three colors -- black, white and orange. The sign will tout the player's consecutive games streak, his 11 all-star game appearances and the fact that he has played his entire major league career with one team.

No one showed up at the meeting to voice opposition, despite the size of the mural. Gilbert V. Rubin, the board's executive director, said the mural will probably rank as the largest in the city.

Mr. Ripken has played in 1,897 consecutive games and is chasing the record of 2,130 held by Gehrig, the late Yankees legend.

Comments by Councilman Perry Sfikas, D-1st, seemed to sum up the reason why there was no dissent.

"Cal Ripken sounds fine to me," said Mr. Sfikas, adding that he wasn't bothered by the size of the mural. "He does represent Baltimore and it's a tribute to Cal. It's good that it's close to the stadium, and he's a hometown hero."

Asked whether he was concerned that the wall could be used for other advertising murals in the future, he said, "A tribute to Cal Ripken is much different than an advertisement for tobacco and liquor. There's a very clear distinction."

The site of the mural will be two doors north of Burke's Cafe, which is at the corner of Lombard and Light streets.

"We thought it would be fine, only due to the reason that it's not going to be a large [mural] for Nike," said John Vatenos, manager of Burke's. "It's better than what's up there now."

The Downtown Partnership, a public-private group that promotes downtown Baltimore, did not have a position on the mural, said spokesman Brian Lewbart.

The wall of the building is a blank and white. The structure has been vacant since Jos A. Bank left the building in April for a new location on East Pratt Street.

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