Bruz and Lori Klima are Anne Arundel County firefighters. They were supposed to be working the day shift. But like many of the police-estimated crowd of 300,000 fans who participated in the downtown parade to honor Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken yesterday, the Klimas took the day off to honor the man who
never takes a day off.
The obvious contradiction didn't seem to bother them. "It's a once-in-a-lifetime event," said Mr. Klima, 40, of Pasadena. "It's worth it."
Bruz saw the record-tying game at Camden Yards. Lori saw the record-breaker. They took turns taking care of their two boys.
"If he could pitch a tent at Camden Yards," Mrs. Klima, 29, said of her husband, "he would take the whole week off."
Yesterday, the Klimas stood at the corner of Charles and Conway streets with both of their children in tow. They were waiting for Mr. Ripken. Joey, 2, was dressed in a miniature Jim Palmer uniform. Matt, 5, wore a black Cal Ripken jersey and white baseball pants.
"Matt's the next Cal Ripken," Mrs. Klima said earnestly. "He is."
Matt Klima's dream was the same as Mr. Ripken's.
"All I ever wanted to do was be a baseball player," Mr. Ripken told the crowd at the Inner Harbor. "All I ever wanted to do was be a baseball player in this city."
Mr. Ripken, a native of Aberdeen, missed his hometown parade last evening because of the team flight to Cleveland for tonight's game, No. 2,132 in the streak. Thousands more fans attended the Aberdeen parade.
During his Inner Harbor speech, a haggard-looking Mr. Ripken, who did not leave Oriole Park until after 2 a.m. yesterday and was obviously worn out by three days of adulation and nonstop media scrutiny, appeared to lose his train of thought several times. "Somebody just said I should run around the harbor," Mr. Ripken said. "I barely had enough energy to make it around that little ballpark last night."
Mr. Ripken's teammates, who had encouraged him to make Wednesday's memorable -- around Camden Yards, stood behind him. Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and Gov. Parris N. Glendening were among those who lauded Mr. Ripken with praise and gifts.
The crowd, estimated at 300,000 by police at the scene and the city Office of Promotion, did not cause any disturbances that required arrests, according to Officer Robert W. Weinhold. The fans came to hear Mr. Ripken. They were peaceful because they went home satisfied.
"This type of thing only happens in Baltimore," Mr. Ripken said. "Baseball is special here."
The parade, sponsored by The Baltimore Sun, was similar to the one 12 years ago that culminated at City Hall in celebration of the Orioles' 1983 World Series victory.
Color guards from the police and fire departments led the procession, which started at Charles and Centre streets about 12:10 p.m., turned down Conway Street and culminated at the Inner Harbor. Bands played from Aberdeen High School, Calvert Hall and Morgan State University. Then came Mr. Ripken's Orioles teammates, past and present, riding in the back of Jeeps and convertibles.
Mr. Ripken rode in an orange-and-black float. He strode up the podium surrounded by police. His wife, Kelly, son, Ryan, 2, and daughter, Rachel, 5, sat behind him. His father, Cal Ripken Sr., was by his side. Cal Jr. had kind words for Cal Sr.
"I always said I thought of my father as a coach or as a manager," Mr. Ripken said. "But I have to say there were a lot of times I looked at him as a father."
The fans lined the streets four or five deep at the beginning of the parade and multiplied in the downtown business district.
Christina Hubbard, 36, of Parkville, stood at Charles and Lexington streets wearing her 1983 World Series cap, not far from where she stood for that year's parade. This time, she brought her 10-year-old daughter, Tara.
"The emotion is just as deep as when they won the World Series," Ms. Hubbard said.
Not everybody blew off work or skipped school. Ame Ressing, 28, brought her entire second-grade class from Federal Hill Elementary.
The 20 schoolchildren stood at Conway and Light streets, waiting for Cal, and awaiting their lesson about working hard and going to school every single day.
"They're trying to push the kids to come to school 180 days this year," Ms. Ressing said. "It occurred to me I could use [the consecutive-games record] as an example."
In Aberdeen last night, the celebration had more of a grass-roots feel, but was just as festive. Thousands of Aberdeen's citizens lined the one-mile parade route from the high school to Festival Park, sitting on the curb or in lawn chairs.
The guest of honor wasn't there, but his dad, Cal Sr., was there, as was his mother, Vi. And that was just fine with those honoring their native son.
"All along, we didn't expect Cal," said Ron Kupferman, chairman of the parade committee. "But make no mistake. We're honoring the Ripken family. We're just as proud of the rest of them as we are of Cal."
The parade included Little Leaguers and veterans of the old Susquehanna League, the Aberdeen High band, and vehicles carrying the Oriole Bird, Orioles investor Steve Geppi and Cal's high school baseball coach Don Morrison.
On perhaps the most elegant float, a tractor-pulled replica of a miniature baseball field ("Took more than 65 man hours to build that,"Mr. Kupferman said), were Vi and Cal Sr., who still live in the modest, split-level, three-bedroom home in Aberdeen where Cal and his two brothers and sister grew up.
Cal's parents continually smiled and waved. The 65-vehicle parade ended at City Hall, where the Ripken Museum will be housed. A museum sign was unveiled last night.
"We hope the museum will be in operation by next spring," Mr. Kupferman said, noting that its curator, John Quarstein, is collecting memorabilia. "One room for the museum is at least a start."