On road, Ripken forced into own space

May 26, 1993|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Staff Writer Staff writer Peter Schmuck contributed to this article.

In a perfect world, Cal Ripken would prefer his private life remain just that.

But in an era of seven-figure salaries, ever-increasing media scrutiny and the continuing collectors' craze, the Orioles shortstop has come to realize that isn't possible.

Now, the spotlight is on Ripken's living arrangements on the road. He often stays apart from the team hotel and uses limousines or private-car services for travel in an effort to minimize the distractions that have become part of life on the road.

The practice didn't start this year, but recent reports of Ripken's road accommodations have Ripken feeling compelled to de

fend himself.

"To be honest with you," he said, "I think it's something I have the right not to talk about.

"But since others have taken it upon themselves to make certain inferences, maybe it's better if I do. Sometimes, you feel if you don't say anything it'll just blow over -- but maybe it won't.

"Nobody has come to me before and asked me about it. If they had, I would have explained that it was strictly a matter of security and privacy.

"It has nothing at all to do with the team or the organization," said Ripken. "In many instances, it goes back several years.

"It is the most overblown non-issue I can imagine," Ripken said. "It has no effect whatsoever on my relationship with my teammates. They always know where I am and how to get in touch with me. And the limos are nothing more than a means of transportation -- you can't get a car onto an airport runway."

Many players use limos, often shared, especially when returning from a road trip.

"I think some people have the mind-set that this is like a Pony League team that is chaperoned while traveling," said Ripken. "I don't think they understand what it's like.

"But we don't have team meals or meetings at the hotel -- the time we spend together is at the ballpark or when we go out after a game. And that doesn't change one single bit."

Though his situation is unusual because he's one of baseball's top personalities, Ripken acknowledges the demands he faces are no different from many others. "There has to be at least 50 players who have to go through the same thing," he said.

"I've never talked to Nolan Ryan about it, but I'm sure what he faces is tenfold compared to my situation. I don't know what other players do -- but I don't like to deal with the confrontations," said Ripken. "You don't like to tell people to butt out, but sometimes you have to when somebody pokes a pen in your chest and says you have to sign something.

"It's just that the game has changed so much. It's gotten more like the entertainment business, like what you hear about rock stars.

"There have been instances of people hanging out on the [hotel room] floor, hiding behind soda machines, knocking on your door. . . .Even when you use an alias [which Ripken has been doing routinely for the past few years], they still seem to find out where you are.

"I don't like to go through that, especially when my family travels with me, which is often. I don't know what others do, but this is the way I choose to handle it -- by trying to avoid it as much as possible."

Ron Shapiro, the attorney who represents Ripken, said his is not an isolated case.

"For obvious reasons, I can't mention names, but there are three other instances that I know of where alternative arrangements are made," said Shapiro.

"It is strictly a security and privacy measure in an effort to avoid the mania of professional collectors. It has absolutely zero impact on Cal's relationship with his teammates. He did it during his MVP year [1991] and nobody mentioned it."

Perhaps other high-profile players have separate accommodations on the road, but an informal survey of baseball beat writers didn't turn up such arrangements for Jose Canseco, Nolan Ryan, Barry Bonds, Kirby Puckett, Wade Boggs or Don Mattingly.

However, most of them register under aliases and have clauses in their contracts that entitle them to single rooms, rather than double occupancy, which is all the basic agreement requires.

Reggie Jackson, who was inundated with attention from fans and media during his career, said: "I did it one year, during a couple of road trips in 1969 . . . but I found it separated me from the team. I was separate anyway in a way, but I felt it separated me further.

"What worked for me was registering under my middle name -- I

would check in as R. Martinez -- got me some peace and quiet.

"I think there is more to deal with now than in my heyday. However, I dealt with it in New York, so I think it can be dealt with. I think the more you deal with it and look it in the face, the better off you are."

Though the Yankees' Mattingly doesn't stay in different hotels, he said: "There have been times when I wished I was at another hotel. To have people waiting in the hotel outside your door . . . that's not right.

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