"We went into the season with the idea of building a ballclub," he said. "We were going to build it during the season if we had to. To be fired after six ballgames, I wasn't happy."
No one was.
The owner, Edward Bennett Williams, ended Cal Sr.'s managerial career. After the fifth loss, he called Frank Robinson and offered him the job. At first, Robinson declined to take over. But when it became clear that Williams was going to fire Cal Sr., no matter who his successor would be, Robinson said he accepted the job.
But it was the general manager, Hemond, who had to break the news.
The end was awful, the timing unintentionally cruel. It was April 12. The team was back home from Cleveland after a 6-3 loss.
Cal Sr. went to a Baltimore County court in the morning to face a drunken-driving charge. He absorbed a three-year probation, $750 fine, 100 hours of community service and a three-year prohibition against drinking alcohol. He couldn't even operate a vehicle without another licensed driver present.
His wife took him to the ballpark that day. By noon, he was in the manager's office, filling out a lineup card, when he was summoned to speak with Hemond.
The meeting was brief.
"It was very difficult to accept," Cal Sr.said. "I had been in the organization. I had worked my way up to the big leagues. I spent my life with the Orioles."
He was gone before his sons got to the ballpark.
Even now, there is no way for the sons to mask the bitterness they felt that day.
Cal Jr. drove into the parking lot at Memorial Stadium. His car radio was on. The announcer said the Orioles had a new manager.
"I didn't know to think if it was a joke or if it was true," Cal Jr. said.
Bill Ripken also heard about his father's ouster on the radio.
"Nice," he said sarcastically. "Very nice."
Frank Robinson met with the Ripken brothers.
What could he say? What could anyone say?
"Personally, it [the firing] bothered me," Cal Jr. said. "Even 0-6, it seemed like we were in a few games. Then my dad was let go, and there was a bigger sense of chaos that developed. It makes you ask yourself, 'What's going on?'
"It wasn't a matter of understanding the firing. It was a matter of accepting it. And that took time."
The Ripken brothers, like the rest of the team, struggled.
"I just wanted to win, to make everyone go away, to go on with the season," Cal Jr. said.
The sons who once symbolized the team now became magnets for an ever-building circus of media that followed the team. Repeatedly, theywere asked their views on their father's firing, on the state of the team, on The Streak.
Often, they simply would retreat into the trainer's room or players' lounge.
"I don't remember any pressure. I found it all personally invading," Cal Jr. said. "There were cameras at the airport. Cameras at the hotel. You couldn't go and eat out without someone following you."
For much of the country, it was Bill who came to be the picture of Orioles' defeat. There he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated, eyes closed, bat pressed against his forehead, "The Agony of the Orioles," etched in a moment.
"I've still got that cover," he said. "Hey, Sports Illustrated is Sports Illustrated. Right?"
The relationship between the team and the family never would be the same. There would be a reconciliation. But the unconditional trust between a family and a team had been breached.
Cal Sr. and Vi did not set foot in Memorial Stadium the rest of the season.
"I had two people on that team I cared for," Vi said. "I was listening for them and hoping for them and hurting for them."
Booed in Milwaukee
Game 13: Milwaukee 9, Baltimore 5.
Larry Sheets on first base, and Wade Rowdon at the plate miss signs on consecutive pitches in the fourth inning. Sheets, about as mobile as a foul pole, is thrown out trying to steal.
The Orioles' defense falls apart with three straight errors in the fifth inning. The Milwaukee crowd actually boos the visitors' incompetence.
The 13th straight loss ties the record for worst start established by the 1904 Washington Senators and 1920 Detroit Tigers.
Bill Ripken surveys the media pack following the team and says, "Anybody got a no-pest strip?"
A national joke
Imagine showing up in Milwaukee, looking into the bleachers, and seeing a banner that says: "0-162 . . . That's Why They Call "Em The O's"
Imagine walking through clusters of reporters on the way to the shower or fielding dozens of questions around the batting cage.
Finally, imagine being part of a national joke.
Oh, to be an Oriole in 1988.
It was tough to go to the ballpark. Tougher still to go home.
"It just followed you around like the flu," Fred Lynn said.
Proud men accustomed to winning dealt with humiliation, defeat, even fear.
Lynn, a one-time Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player, said he never felt so much pressure.
Not in an All-Star Game. Not even in a World Series.