The folks at the Babe Ruth Museum knew Cal Ripken was going to be something special.
Back in 1983, Ripken's second full major-league season, the museum began amassing potential memorabilia related to the infielder -- and it hasn't stopped yet.
"We realized he was something big a long time ago," said Michael Gibbons, the museum's executive director. "He is closely identified with Orioles history. It's our job to evaluate anyone like that and research their accomplishments from a historical standpoint. We could not think of a more appropriate player to honor."
The museum obtained a bat Ripken used in the 1983 World Series, to commemorate the year he was the American League's Most Valuable Player. Since then, the museum has displayed uniforms, personal photos from the Ripken family, the 1991 All-Star Game MVP trophy, the lineup card from Ripken's 2,000th consecutive game and one particular item that strongly jogged Ripken's memory.
In 1993, when Baltimore played host to the All-Star Game, the museum attracted record crowds for its Cal Ripken Exhibit. Included in the exhibit was a letter the shortstop wrote in sixth grade saying that, when he grew up, he wanted to be a professional baseball player.
According to Gibbons, in the letter Ripken said he wanted to be a big-leaguer because he enjoyed playing the game, it was an honorable profession and you can make pretty good money doing it.
Mementos like the letter came directly from Ripken's parents. The museum's staff made a trip to Aberdeen in 1992, and the parents lent the museum the letter, old press clippings, photos and uniforms to the exhibit.
With Ripken's 2,131st consecutive game about to be in the books, the search for memorabilia is in high gear. The museum will be trying to obtain as many items as possible related to tonight's game.
"This is one of the most profoundly important baseball records we will ever get," Gibbons said. "With the way the game has changed over the years, we will never see another Iron Man come along. Especially not one who stayed with one team."