Aberdeen counts down with its favorite star


ABERDEEN -- Opening a museum honoring Cal Ripken Jr., since city hall is going to move over to accommodate him, is still foremost on the agenda but it'll be delayed until after he is expected to establish baseball's all-time durability record. The site has been selected, the director appointed and a plan for preliminary funding put in place.

Meanwhile, major highways entering the city have signs posted that read:

Welcome To Aberdeen, Md

Hometown Of

Cal Ripken Jr.

54 Games To Go

The figure is changed with each passing game as the countdown continues toward what Ripken needs to reach and surpass Lou Gehrig's mark of playing in 2,130 consecutive major-league games. Neighborly pride abounds.

The present city hall will become what will be officially known as the Ripken Museum. And the city hall's new residence is to be established in a vacant bank building that offers more space for the expanding business of maintaining government.

Creation of the museum is being delayed at the request of the Tufton Group, which directs Ripken's business affairs. This is understandable since so much attention is being given to the streak-breaking quest that demands on the Tufton Group have approached unrelenting proportions.

Ripken's agent, Ron Shapiro, and Tufton head, Ira Rainess, elated over the progress that has been made by the Aberdeen group, said they would be able to give more cooperation and assistance to the museum after Cal gets the record behind him.

"We have achieved an excellent relationship with Shapiro and Rainess," explained James V. McMahan Jr., president of the Ripken Museum. "They have been fully informed of every detail and couldn't be more complimentary over what we have been able to put in place so far. They had no idea we were so far along."

What this means is the committee will now turn its attention to staging a momentous parade in Aberdeen on Sept. 7, the afternoon after Ripken is projected to replace Gehrig in the record book. It's anticipated the Aberdeen Proving Grounds band will lead the Ripken celebration and all seven of Harford County's high school bands may be in the line of march.

A street area near the museum will be permanently designated Ripken Way and Mayor Charles Boutin said he expected the city and county to decree Sept. 7 as "Ripken Day." Gov. Parris Glendening should consider making the same move on a statewide basis.

Meanwhile, apart from the parade plans, arrangements continue for establishing the museum. Papers of incorporation have been filed and a slate of officers elected, headed by McMahan and Jerry Bounds, vice president. Ronald Kupperman is recording secretary, Dick Walter, treasurer; John Karas, chairman of finance; James V. McMahan III, chairman of planning; Mayor Boutin, chairman of building; Robert W. Wallis, chairman of marketing; and Rick Bowlus, chairman of repository.

Cal's parents, Violet, who is corporate secretary, and Cal Sr., are at-large members of the committee, along with Ira Rainess and Joan Lozinak. This puts the administrative structure in place.

John Quarstein, with an extensive background in establishing and directing museums, will perform the same function for the Ripken undertaking. While involved in much of the early planning, Quarstein put the project in appropriate focus when he said, "This effort will express that Cal Ripken Jr. is a player who comes along once in a lifetime, a player who could have playedwell in any era, making him a powerful symbol of what makes baseball America's favorite pastime."

A charter membership drive, priced at $300 per person, will start soon. Funds accrued will pay for early expenses. "Not one dime in tax money is going to be asked of the citizens of Aberdeen or to the city itself," insisted McMahan. "Our charter memberships will bring us the necessary seed money to get off the ground. Each member will receive a pin and a certificate designating them a charter member for this particular fund-raising."

The exhibit concept will cover every facet of Cal's life, using artifacts and video monitors. It will, no doubt, be a tourist attraction for Aberdeen and a fitting honor for its hometown hero who is on his way to breaking what was thought to be an unapproachable standard for baseball longevity.

Highway signs on the approaches to the Aberdeen city limits offer the same reminder. Fifty-four and counting . . .

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