Ripken's season gets golden cap 1st fielding honor is most satisfying

November 27, 1991|By Kent Baker | Kent Baker,Sun Staff Correspondent

NEW YORK TDB — NEW YORK -- The final jewel in Cal Ripken's ring of honor was set in place yesterday when he was awarded his first Rawlings Gold Glove in a breathtaking setting atop the World Trade Center.

After a decade of trying to prove his mettle as a gloveman, th ceremony capped a round-the-bases season for Ripken, who had been named the American League's Most Valuable Player and Player of the Year by both The Sporting News and The Associated Press.

The Gold Glove has been the one elusive honor for Ripken, who made only three errors in 1990 and set the record for the highest NTC fielding percentage (.996) by a shortstop. But he was bypassed in favor of Chicago's Ozzie Guillen by the league's managers and coaches, who determine Gold Glove winners.

Texas Rangers manager Bobby Valentine said he was "embarrassed by my peers" when Ripken did not win last season.

"I don't know if this rectifies that or not," Ripken said last night. "I didn't look at it last year as being snubbed. What it does is heighten awareness that I am a pretty good shortstop and deserved consideration for the award."

However, Ripken stopped short of saying that this award mean more to him than his second MVP honor.

"Obviously, the world title [1983] is the best experience I've ha personally, and the MVP is very prestigious," he said.

"But for someone like me to switch from third base to shortstop at the big-league level, it meant I had to work harder for this one than most. It required a lot of determination, and I'm very proud to be recognized."

Ripken has been viewed primarily as an offensive player throughout the baseball world, a guy who has hit 20-plus home runs for 10 straight seasons. The Gold Glove award adds a

different dimension to his Hall of Fame portfolio.

"If you don't get the chance to see Cal day in and day out, yo don't appreciate him," said former Oriole Brooks Robinson, who was inducted into the Gold Glove Hall of Fame with pitcher Jim Kaat. Both won the award 16 times.

"People think of Ripken as a third baseman more than anythin else. He's not one of those sensational shortstops who dive all around and come up and throw guys out," said Robinson. "The only guy who wanted to move him to short was Earl [former manager Earl Weaver]. But all the furor over last year certainly helped him. There's no doubt in my mind if he had stayed at third he'd have a lot more Gold Gloves."

"That's conceivable," Ripken said. "The nature of the positio [third] would have made me a flashier player and the competition is tougher at short. There are a lot of great shortstops in the league."

But to short he went when "one day I came in and there was a 6 beside my name instead of a 5 on the lineup card. I thought Earl had made a mistake."

Ripken became only the second player in history to win MVP, Player of the Year, All-Star Game MVP and a Gold Glove in the same season. The Dodgers' Maury Wills did it in 1962.

Only four American Leaguers in the past 24 seasons have bee the MVP and a Gold Glove winner in the same year. The others were Fred Lynn (1975), Robin Yount (1982) and Don Mattingly (1985).

When Weaver shifted Ripken to short in 1982, he had visions of reincarnation of Ernie Banks, who won two MVP awards while playing shortstop with the last-place Chicago Cubs (1958-59).

Yesterday, Banks said: "It's like people remember me now because Ripken pulled a similar MVP feat this year, becoming the first American Leaguer to win from a losing team. "Everyone is mentioning power-hitting shortstops again. I'm a happy man that Cal Ripken was the MVP."

Highest fielding pct. by shortstops

Player, team. . . . . . . Season. . . Pct.

1. Cal Ripken, Bal. . . . . '90 ... . ...996

2. T. Fernandez, Tor. . . . '89. . . . .992

3. Larry Bowa, Phil.. . . . '79 . . . ..991

4. Ed Brinkman, Det. . . . . '72. . .. . .990

5. Ripken, Bal. . . . . . ..'89 . . . ...990

6. Spike Owen, Mon.. . .. ..'90. . ... .989

7. Fernandez, Tor. . . ... ..'90. . .. . .988

8. Bowa, Phil. . . ....... ..'72 . . .... 987

9. Ozzie Smith, S.L.. . ... '87. . . ....987

10. Bowa, Phil. . . . . .. ..'71 . . ... .986

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