Californian has always had eyes for Ripken

The Baltimore Sun

It was way back in 1983 when a 15-year-old California girl and her baseball fanatic father were watching the World Series on television and she became smitten with the ice-blue eyes of the Orioles' young shortstop.

About a decade later, Wendy Harding fell in love for real with her now-husband Charles, a big-time San Diego Padres fan. But the 39-year-old Long Beach, Calif., woman never completely tossed away her crush on Cal Ripken Jr.

And Charles Harding is OK with that.

"I've always said that Cal Ripken is the only man who could come between me and my wife," joked Charles Harding, whose wife placed first this year in the San Diego County Fair's sports division for her Ripken memorabilia collection.

"Luckily, he's married."

There's no jealousy here. In fact, Charles Harding has joined the cause.

"She has sort of turned me into a Cal-obsessed fan, too," he said. "But I'm not as bad as her."

Still, he had no problem agreeing to his wife's choice to name their first-born son. That's right, Calvin Harding was born 14 months ago.

The happy family is here this weekend to celebrate the Hall of Fame induction of Ripken and San Diego Padres outfielder Tony Gwynn. It's a trip they began planning five years ago when they realized two of their favorite ballplayers likely would enter the Hall together.

By the looks of them, family members are torn in their allegiances. The dad proudly wore a Padres jersey and cap yesterday, the mom had on an Orioles cap and Ripken T-shirt, and young Calvin sported an aqua T-shirt with black whales and a pair of khaki shorts.

Make no mistake, though, Calvin is a budding Ripken fan. He had his picture taken with the Orioles great a few months ago at a book signing in La Jolla, Calif. And, his mom points out, Calvin has blue eyes, just as she and her favorite athlete do.

"Yeah," her husband said wryly. "But I don't plan on graying his hair or making him go bald."

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