SAN DIEGO -- Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken has long been known locally for his involvement in a variety of Baltimore charitable endeavors, but yesterday he received national recognition for his contributions off the field.
Ripken received the 22nd Roberto Clemente Award, which is given to the player who best exemplifies the humanitarian spirit exhibited by Hall of Fame outfielder Roberto Clemente and represents baseball as well off the field as he does on it.
"I'm very honored," said Ripken. "I didn't have the honor of meeting him, but I know he was a great player and everyone I've talked to who knew him said he was a great human being."
Baseball's humanitarian awards was named for Clemente after he was killed in a plane crash in 1972 during a trip to Managua, Nicaragua, to carry food and medical supplies to earthquake victims.
Ripken and his wife Kelly have been active in programs to promote literacy in Baltimore. They donated $250,000 to build the Ripken Learning Center and have continued to raise money for the center through the Cal Ripken Jr. Winterfest for Literacy. Ripken also has raised $100,000 for the Baltimore Reads Foundation through his Reading, Runs and Ripken program.
In addition to his efforts to promote literacy, Ripken donates more than 1,100 tickets to underprivileged children and takes part in a day-long baseball clinic with brother Bill and father Cal Ripken Sr. to help raise funds for the Harford County Boys and Girls Clubs. He also furnishes countless autographed items for various charitable auctions and is the Orioles' spokesman for the IBM Student Pennant race.
Two other Orioles have received the award since its inception 22 years ago. Brooks Robinson was one of the first recipients (1972), and Ken Singleton won it in 1982. No other team has had three winners.
"We would like to think this is an outgrowth of a long-standing Orioles tradition of involvement in the community," club president Larry Lucchino said in a statement. "I congratulate both Cal and his wife, Kelly, for their extraordinary commitment, both personally and financially, to this important endeavor."