Ripken museum planned for early '96 in Aberdeen


Baltimore may have the Babe, but Aberdeen has the Iron Man.

A museum honoring Baltimore Orioles' shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. and his family is planned to open early next year in Aberdeen, the family's hometown.

After several years of discussion, the museum project gained momentum this year, mainly because Mr. Ripken is on pace to break New York Yankee Lou Gehrig's streak of playing in 2,130 consecutive games. The record is expected to be set Sept. 6.

Mr. Ripken has given the project his approval and will donate memorabilia and artifacts from his career to the museum after the baseball season ends.

"It's a big honor for him, and he's very proud that the city of Aberdeen, his hometown, is recognizing his whole family," said Ira Rainess, general counsel for the Tufton Group, the Towson firm that handles Mr. Ripken's business affairs.

Mr. Ripken insisted that the museum contain information about the entire Ripken family -- not simply him.

"He was very definite that it should be the Ripken museum, not just the Cal Ripken museum," said Jim McMahan, an Aberdeen radio personality and longtime friend of the Ripken family who is leading the effort to create the museum.

Mr. Ripken's parents, Cal Sr. and Vi Ripken, say they appreciate the honor of having a museum dedicated to the family, but are uncomfortable with the attention it could bring to the Aberdeen area, where four generations of Ripkens have lived. The Ripkens serve on the museum's executive board.

"It's a little embarrassing," Mrs. Ripken says. "I think the museum will mean more to other people than to us. The intent of the museum is tasteful, but if it gets on a grandiose scale, I wouldn't be comfortable with that. We're just people, we didn't go out and win a war or anything like that."

The elder Mr. Ripken is low-key about the affair, too.

"It is quite an honor to have something like this," says the former Orioles' coach and manager.

"But I'm not sure we deserve all this recognition. We've just been very fortunate to do what we wanted to in life."

Bill Ripken, Cal Jr.'s younger brother, also plays professional baseball and played for the Orioles from 1987 to 1992. They have a sister, Ellen of Bel Air, and a brother, Fred of Havre de Grace.

The Ripken family already has a namesake in Harford -- a crossroads, south of Aberdeen at Stepney and Philadelphia roads. For some reason, the people who named the crossroads spelled it Ripkins Corner; Cal Sr. said he doesn't know how that happened, but that's where he grew up.

Cal Jr. has collected a large number of objects related to his baseball career, and he and his family plan to sort through them this fall with museum organizers to determine what items to display.

The Ripken Museum Inc., a nonprofit corporation, will oversee the museum, which will be created through private and corporate donations. The cost of the museum is estimated at $1 million.

The museum is likely to include uniforms, hats, bats, balls, batting gloves, baseball cards, photographs, magazine covers, merchandise bearing Cal Ripken Jr.'s name or likeness, videotapes and perhaps some trophies, including one of Mr. Ripken's Gold Gloves, awarded to the top fielder at his position for a season, and one of his Most Valuable Player awards.

Interactive and video displays also are planned.

Baseball memorabilia collectors from Maryland and across the country have offered to donate objects to the museum, said Rick Bowlus, an avid collector of Ripken memorabilia who is leading the museum's repository committee. Mr. Ripken's memorabilia is valued by collectors, with some of his baseball cards fetching up to $2,250.

The Ripken Museum will be temporarily housed in a meeting room at Aberdeen's City Hall until the city moves its offices into the former Maryland National Bank building across the street.

Once City Hall is vacated, the entire building will be occupied by the Ripken museum under a lease-purchase agreement.

"We want this museum to symbolize what Cal Ripken is -- a quality individual," said Mr. McMahan, president of Ripken Museum Inc. "We want people to see the values and standards of Cal Ripken Jr. and his family."

The museum's board also includes Orioles' radio broadcaster Fred Manfra and radio and television personality Tom Davis.

Aberdeen officials are planning a parade the day after Mr. Ripken breaks Gehrig's record, when they will unveil a sign announcing the future home of the museum and name the plaza in front of City Hall after Cal Ripken Jr.

Aberdeen Mayor Charles Boutin said Aberdeen's main street has changed over the years from a bustling business district to a sleepy avenue, and he hopes the museum will help spur a renaissance.

"This museum will give people a reason to come into the city," Mr. Boutin said.

"We're lucky to have Cal Ripken. He brings a sense of pride to the community. If people ask 'What is Aberdeen famous for?,' we can say that this is where Cal Ripken is from.

"With the streak, this is definitely the year to get the museum going," Mr. Boutin said.

"A consultant told us we had better have a traffic plan to handle all the people that will come here. Well, traffic is a problem that we'd like to have."

The Aberdeen museum won't be the first for Cal Ripken Jr. -- there's a small museum in Thurmont that displays some Ripken memorabilia. There's also the Aberdeen Archives and Museum on Park Street in Aberdeen that contains articles and information on Mr. Ripken.

And there's a museum in Cooperstown, N.Y., that's awaiting Mr. Ripken. It's called the Baseball Hall of Fame.

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