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'Like a rock' Ripken joins Chevy lineup

In the biggest commercial deal of his career, Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken has agreed to become a national spokesman for Chevrolet trucks -- lending his image of durability to vehicles General Motors Corp. promotes as tough "Like a Rock."

The two-year deal, scheduled to be announced today, calls for a series of television and print ads featuring Ripken. Ripken's fees will be about $500,000 over the two years, according to a source familiar with the arrangement.

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Ira S. Rainess, general counsel for the Tufton Group, a Baltimore County firm that coordinates Ripken's commercial contracts, declined to discuss the fees other than to say the deal is worth six figures but under $700,000.

Officials for GM were traveling to Baltimore yesterday for the news conference and were unavailable to comment.

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"This will be his biggest national endorsement deal," Rainess said.

"In the Baltimore-Washington area, he's a fixture in advertising. This will elevate him to a national level," Rainess said.

Talks have been ongoing with Chevrolet since early this year, and the carmaker and player agree they are a good fit in terms of style and image, Rainess said.

Chevrolet stresses the durability and toughness of its trucks in relatively unflashy, straightforward ads. Ripken, poised to break Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games streak, is the antithesis of the modern, flamboyant athlete. Ripken also drives a black Chevy Suburban.

"It's a perfect match," Rainess said.

Ads including film clips of Ripken could begin appearing soon and would be featured in this fall's league championship games, Rainess said.

The themes of the ads still are being worked out, but some will be tied to charities Chevy is involved with, including the Special Olympics. Ripken often seeks to involve philanthropy in his endorsement contracts.

Chevrolet is an official sponsor of Major League Baseball and The Baseball Network. The carmaker is re-examining its relationship with baseball in light of the disintegration of The Baseball Network, a pioneering cooperative venture between baseball and television networks.

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"They saw the value of Cal independent of that," Rainess said.

Though he is one of the most popular baseball players of his

generation, Ripken's commercial work has lagged behind that of more colorful athletes. His total endorsement earnings are less than $1 million a year, compared with the $6 million he earns

from the Orioles and the $40 million the nation's top sports endorser -- Michael Jordan -- draws.

Ripken also is scheduled to be featured in a 60-second TV ad for Nike debuting in two weeks. Ripken has had a relationship with Nike, but this will be his most widely seen promotion with the shoe manufacturer.


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