They had known him since he was a kid. His father had managed them in the minors or coached them in the majors. They needed the kid.
Many of their careers were on the wane, and they wanted to win a World Series together.
The kid came through.
"That was probably the best group of personalities that could ever be put together," said second baseman Rich Dauer, rattling off the names of former teammates such as Al Bumbry, Ken Singleton, Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer and John Lowenstein.
Ripken had known them for years. He was 3 years old when he met Palmer at Single-A Aberdeen, 13 when he met Dauer at Double-A Asheville and 14 when he met Singleton at spring training. Growing up around these players, Ripken had learned how to act in the clubhouse and how to carry himself on the field.
"The strength of the Orioles was continuity," Palmer said, "and Cal fit right in."
"He was so well schooled," Singleton said, "and he wasn't going to make the same rookie mistakes. He just didn't do any of those things."
"It was evident to us that he was going to be a great player," Dauer said.
In Ripken, they saw the future.
But the veterans led the way.
They had a lot to prove. They had lost their manager, they had lost the division title on the last day of the previous season and about 15 of them had lost the 1979 World Series after leading the Pittsburgh Pirates three games to one. The Palmers, Singletons and Dauers did not have much time left to redeem themselves.
"We thought it was our last chance," Singleton said, "and we were going to get it done."
Singleton squeezed out one last good season, hitting .276 with 18 home runs and 85 RBIs. Palmer, battling injuries and pitching out of bullpen for most of the season, provided vocal leadership and became the first pitcher to win a World Series game in each of three decades. Mike Flanagan started the season 6-0, suffered a knee injury, but came back in August and pitched in a bulky brace.
The offensive backbone of the team was Ripken and Murray. They were superstars who hit 3-4 in the Orioles lineup and who enjoyed each other's company off the field. "They were similar personalities in a way," Palmer said. "They were never rah-rah guys."
The only rivalry between them was a friendly one. They had a running bet about who would finish the season with the most strikeouts. The loser had to pick up the tab at a nice restaurant "without any prices on the menu."
Murray won the bet. He struck out seven fewer times (90) than Ripken (97).
Ripken won the Most Valuable Player Award. He had made fewer enemies in the media.
"The media's not going to make Eddie MVP," Singleton said.
Murray finished second for the second year in a row despite hitting .306 with 33 home runs and 111 RBI. His midseason absence because a knee injury proved his worth. "He missed five games, and we lost them all," Palmer said.
Ripken played in every game in 1983. He began to receive attention for his consecutive games streak that stood at 280 and his consecutive innings streak that began midway through the 1982 season. Joe Altobelli, the Orioles new manager, said he tried to remove Ripken from the end of several games, but Ripken talked him out of it: "He said, 'I can play these last two innings standing on my head. I'm OK, Joe.' "
Neither Ripken nor Murray played particularly well in the postseason. Other players took over once the two superstars got them there. Tito Landrum hit a dramatic, 10th-inning home run to knock the Chicago White Sox out of the playoffs. Dempsey was named the World Series MVP.
Ripken hit only .178 with one RBI during the World Series. But the last out of the final game, Gary Maddox's line drive, was hit right to him.
In 1984, veterans such as Singleton, Dauer and Palmer retired. A few years later, Murray's star fell in the eyes of Baltimoreans. The team would be in Ripken's hands.