Earl put Ripken on path of gold

November 27, 1991|By Doug Brown | Doug Brown,Evening Sun Staff

NEW YORK -- With a slight smile playing on his lips, Cal Ripken remembered that day in 1982 when he found the number "6" next to his name in the Orioles' lineup.

He was stunned. To be sure, manager Earl Weaver always

viewed him as a shortstop, but Ripken had arrived from the minors as a third baseman and had spent the early months of his first full major-league season there.

"I thought Earl made a lineup mistake, writing '6' instead of '5'," Ripken said. "He hadn't prepared me for the move."

Ripken consulted his father. Cal Ripken Sr., the Orioles' third base coach, reminded his son that the switch was made in part because the club was looking for more offense from its shortstop.

"Don't worry," Ripken Sr. said. "Just catch the ball and throw it to first base."

Weaver made it sound just as elementary: "I just want you to catch the ball, take your time and make a good throw. If he's out, he's out. If he's safe, he's only on first base."

Ripken smiled as he recalled Weaver's advice. "Earl had a way of simplifying things. From then on, I learned the position as I went along."

In a presentation long overdue, the third baseman-turned-shortstop supreme yesterday received his first Rawlings Gold Glove for fielding excellence in a ceremony on the 106th floor of the World Trade Center. Ripken is the ninth Oriole to receive the award, the first since Eddie Murray in 1984.

Some people feel the latest salute to Ripken rectifies the 1990 snub when he was passed over despite establishing an all-time record for consistency at shortstop with only three errors in 161 games.

"People tended to think of him as a third baseman," said Brooks Robinson, who was inducted into the Gold Glove Hall of Fame during the group's 35th anniversary celebration yesterday.

"Cal's not sensational, doesn't dive around and throw people out. You have to see him day in and day out to appreciate him. After all that furor last year when he didn't get the award, it took his good offensive year to bring attention to his defense.

"When I was signing 23 one-year contracts, no general manager ever asked me how many games I saved with my glove. All they wanted to know was how many home runs and RBIs I had."

Ripken, who has played in 1,573 consecutive games, led American League shortstops in fielding percentage (.986) for the second straight year, putouts ( 267) for the fourth time, assists (529) for the sixth time, total chances (807) for the fourth time and double plays (114) for the fifth time.

"I don't look at 1990 as a snub, so it's not like this is vindication or anything," Ripken said. "I think what it [1990] did was heighten awareness that I was a pretty good shortstop and deserved consideration for the award. I think it prompted voters to examine my stats."

Ripken's Gold Glove comes on the heels of last week's salute as the AL's Most Valuable Player.

He is the second player in history to become his league's MVP, Major League Player of the Year (Associated Press and The Sporting News), All-Star Game MVP and win a Gold Glove in the same season. The only other player to accomplish that was Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Maury Wills in 1962.

The Gold Glove, determined by vote of managers and coaches, may not be No. 1 on Ripken's list, but it's clearly in the top three.

"The world championship in 1983, that was my best experience, period," Ripken said. "Other than the MVP, for someone like me, who switched from third base to shortstop, who was branded early as an offensive shortstop, well, this is probably the most prestigious award.

"I learned the position. I worked harder than a lot of guys. I'm bigger than most shortstops and don't have as much range. I had to figure out from positioning and knowing our pitchers and opposing hitters how to cut down the area where balls were likely to be hit.

"If people watch me for only a few games, nothing stands out. If they watch over a season, maybe they have a different opinion.

"I'm very proud to say I won a Gold Glove. I finally got the big pat on my back I was waiting to get."

In the audience yesterday was Ernie Banks, the former Chicago Cubs shortstop who, like Ripken, was known more for his offense. Banks won two MVP awards with horrid clubs and retired with a single Gold Glove, in 1960.

"It's good to see another power-hitting shortstop win the MVP," Banks said. "It's bad that Ripken was with a second-division club. It's good that he created a better image for his club by having a great year."

Robinson and Jim Kaat, both 16-time Gold Glove winners, were anointed yesterday as the first inductees into the Rawlings Gold Glove Hall of Fame. Kaat, a pitcher, insists he became adept with a glove out of self-preservation.

"Bubba Morton of the Detroit Tigers hit a line drive that knocked out seven of my teeth," Kaat said. "After that, I learned to get my glove up."

The Orioles have won 49 Gold Gloves (16 by Robinson), second only to the St. Louis Cardinals' 53 . . . St. Louis shortstop Ozzie Smith won his 12th straight, putting him into a three-way tie for second on the all-time winners list behind Kaat and Robinson.

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