When Cal Ripken was young, he cheated against his grandmother at playing cards. He gave up a home run and took the loss that would have sent his Little League team to the World Series in Williamsport, Pa.
But Ripken overcame these shortcomings, and that's the point in "Cal Ripken Jr., Count Me In," an autobiography he wrote with Greg Brown.
The book, which will include 20 to 25 full-color illustrations and 20 to 25 photographs, will be published Sept. 23 and priced at $14.95, with the proceeds going to the Kelly and Cal Ripken Jr. Foundation, which supports literacy, health and community-service programs.
"Although it's not good to say you cheated, we want to show that people can change," said Brown, who visited Baltimore last week when Ripken broke Lou Gehrig's major-league record of playing in 2,130 consecutive games. "What I set out to do is not to glorify the athlete, but humanize them."
The book discusses how, growing up, Ripken had to deal with the regular absence of his father, who worked as a minor-league manager, and had troubles adjusting to first grade.
It's written as if Ripken were talking to children.
"I wanted this approach because it would be like the athlete is giving the kids a pep talk rather than a lecture," Brown said.
The message is the most important to Brown and is why he writes children's books about athletes.
"Writing sports for eight years, I knew there were some great people and stories out there," said Brown, who works for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
The idea began when Brown sat down to read his children a bedtime story. He wanted something exciting and inspirational about sports but couldn't find anything. So, using his personal computer, Brown patched together photos with stories about some professional athletes in Seattle.
"I wanted to read to them something that put sports in a positive way," said Brown, whose books are for children 8 to 12. "There were books on trees and animals, but nothing with athletes. Kids are like adults, and they want to read about the people they see on TV."
Brown contacted Edgar Martinez about doing a book on the Mariner's childhood and career. Without financial backing, they completed the project and had 15,000 copies printed.
Brown found backing from publishing houses on his next two books, on Kirby Puckett and Troy Aikman. Brown is working on projects with Steve Young and Bonnie Blair.