Snug in Oates' 'hip pocket,' Ripken Sr. finds a new niche

June 25, 1991|By Ken Rosenthal

Anyone watching an Orioles game on TV can understand why one club source calls third base coach Cal Ripken Sr. "a new man." When the dugout camera focuses on John Oates, Ripken is often in the picture as well.

Oates says he wants Ripken in "his hip pocket," and though the gruff former manager won't ever admit it, he's embracing his expanded role.

Under the circumstances, Ripken had a decent working relationship with the man who replaced him, Frank Robinson. But Oates, with no such history, is much more solicitous of his expertise.

"I want him to remind me, remind me 50 times to do things," Oates says. "I may not do them. I may have thought of them the first 49 times. But that 50th time I might forget. And that might be the one that wins a ballgame.

"I told him I wanted him to be in my hip pocket every night. I told him, 'Don't get thrown out of the ballgame, my hip pocket doesn't reach all the way into the clubhouse.' I've respected him for 24 years. There's no use stopping now."

Ripken doesn't actually suggest moves in the dugout or from the third base coaching box. Oates says he always phrases his "reminders" in the form of questions, such as "Do you want to run for [Sam] Horn?"

True to form, Ripken downplays his contribution, saying of Oates, "He doesn't need any help. He stays on top of the game and knows what he wants to do."

Still, there's no denying Ripken has become more vocal in the dugout. Under Robinson he was decidedly -- and understandably -- low-key.

"I knew he had it in him," Oates says. "That was part of his personality. I told him I needed it. This club needed it.

"I always knew Cal to be a guy that if our pitcher was doing something wrong, he'd yell at him -- 'keep your shoulder tucked, slow down.' Whatever it might have been. He can help our ballclub by doing that."

Just so long as he doesn't fall out of Oates' hip pocket.

"I haven't done anything to get thrown out of a game in years," says Ripken, he of the 28 career ejections.

It might be a new man. But he's the same old Cal.

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