- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
Said Cal Jr. of the speech, "I couldn't help but wonder what everyone else in the room was thinking when he was talking. Many of them had never seen him like this before, but the guy who talked to us is the dad I've always known. He's at his best when he's in charge. Older players like Eddie [Murray] and Flanny [Mike Flanagan] have seen it. The younger ones haven't. Some men were made to follow and some to lead. My dad's a leader."
Ripken's leadership wasn't just limited to words. "We seem to be getting back to doing things we used to do," says Flanagan. "We go through every drill methodically now. We don't take anything for granted. This franchise was built on defense. As pitchers, we always complained about not having enough runs, but that meant we took the defense for granted. But the last couple of years have made us realize just how important it was."
Senior's greatest good fortune as a skipper may be having Junior's solid gold future at his command. In five seasons the 6'4", 218-pounder has averaged .291 with 27 homers and 94 RBIs, and has majestically muzzled skeptics who thought a man his size couldn't play short effectively. The genetic link between Cal Sr. and Cal Jr. isn't evident from their vital stats. When Ripken père washed up with a career .253 average in the bushes, he was making $400 a month. Ripken fils, already an MVP in '83, is in the final season of a four-year, $4 million deal. But Father did pass something along to his son. Wherever Cal Sr. managed or coached, little Cal would soak up knowledge. "I'd go ask someone say Doug DeCinces. about how to do a certain thing Then when he told me I'd go ask my dad if what he told me was right My dad was always the final authority and if he told me the BUY gave me correct information I knew I could go back to him."
Cal Jr. almost certainly inherited the desire and stamina that saw Cal Sr. through some 15 major relocations, from Aberdeen, S. Dak., where he managed in 1966, to Aberdeen, Md., where the Ripkens make their home, Junior is now working on a major league record of having played 6,947 straight innings, His passion for baseball was a source of concern for Weaver, who one day wondered aloud to coach Cal whether shortstop Cal might be better off resting on the bench rather than frolicking in the outfield under a scorching Kansas City sun. "Nah," Cal Sr. muttered to Weaver, "that's just what he likes to do."
The old man never pushed his kids into the game; baseball was just the thing he did. "When Dad first asked if I wanted to go to the ballpark with him. I went because I could be with him alone on the drive there and back," says Cal Jr. "Eventually, I began to enjoy baseball." According to Billy Ripken, "We all grew up wearing baseball uniforms. Even when I was around the big guys, the natural thing was to put on a batboy uniform. That's what I did for my dad's team in Asheville [N.C.] back in the early'70s. That's what I always assumed I would do."
Billy's bat will probably never equal his older brothers. Billy hit a relatively punchless .268 at Class AA Charlotte last summer, but he led all Southern League second basemen in four fielding categories. Because of an assortment of injuries—tendinitis in both shoulders, a bum knee and two broken ringers—Billy enjoyed his first full season in four last year. "I just want to make it up here," the 6'1", 178-pound Billy says. "I really believe it's easy to stay if you make that first step. I've been hurt so much I never thought I'd get that one chance."
While Cal Jr. is milk-drinking and clean-living, Billy is, well, Billy the Kid, (The middle brother, Fred, is a motorcycle mechanic.) Billy remembers that only a few years ago Dad fashioned a wooden paddle, complete with air holes, as a disciplinary threat, although he never used it. Last spring, in a split squad game at Fort Myers, Fla., managed by Cal Sr., the sons formed the double-play combination. When a photographer persuaded them to pose three abreast afterward, Cal Jr. reached behind his father and twisted his cap sideways But Dad immediately fired a glance of annoyance at Billy assuming he was the culprit.
Baltimore's new manager will let everyone, related or not, know the score. He's prone to blunt speech, and he has a quick temper. His language is kindly described as "salty." and he's not one to charm the press. "You talk about outside interests." says Peters, "well. I'm not sure Cal has many. He gardens some during the summer and works around the house, but nothing is as important to him as this game. I don't think he'll ever be anything but the last one to leave the field."
"There aren't many grays in Cal's world." Vi explains. "He has softened a little, but it's still pretty much black and white." Except, that is, where his wardrobe is concerned. Cal Sr. is partial to brown suits.
So far Vi's triumvirate has been the hit of the Orioles' camp. When The Miami Herald ran a color picture of the trio before the first practice, someone Cut out the picture and tacked it to the clubhouse bulletin board. Over the photograph was written this graffito: THE PEP BOYS—MANNY, MOE AND JACK.