Aberdeen's City Hall will bow to Ripken

June 02, 1995|By JOHN STEADMAN

ABERDEEN -- Hometown pride manifests itself as never before in the respect and admiration among friends and neighbors who watched Cal Ripken Jr. grow up. The mere idea of a museum in his honor is more than that. It will soon be reality, with the grand opening scheduled, along with a parade, on the day after he promises to establish baseball's all-time record for individual longevity.

For circling a date on your calendar, make it Sept. 6 when he is scheduled to surpass what was believed to be Lou Gehrig's heretofore untouchable mark of playing 2,130 games for the New York Yankees.

The projected Ripken Museum will be taking over what is the present Aberdeen City Hall. Such a development almost sounds incongruous. Still, the mayor, city council and agency heads will not only move over for Cal but, in fact, vacate the premises. The Ripken achievements have earned such attention.

The City Hall is going to be open for business across the street, no farther than the distance from home plate to first base, so it will be a convenient relocation. The building, a former bank, presents a majestic appearance, befitting a city hall. It also offers 40 percent more space and is cost-efficient.

"It's an appropriate move," explained Mayor Chuck Boutin, "and the timing is perfect. What the Ripken family means to Aberdeen and Harford County has long been established. Cal's pursuit of Lou Gehrig's mark has captured the attention of baseball fans everywhere."

An imposing lineup of committee members, yet to be completed, has held two formal meetings. Jim McMahon, general manager of Aberdeen radio station WAMD, is co-chairman of the effort to perpetuate Ripken's deeds and establish the museum.

"This is a pro-bono procedure and the final result is going to be extraordinary," he said. "We have kept the Ripken family and his attorney and adviser, Ron Shapiro, fully apprised of what's taking place so they are aware of every aspect of this entire process."

Late next week, Boutin, McMahon and Jerry Bounds, an Aberdeen businessman, will meet with Shapiro and Ira Rainess, who heads the Tufton Group which handles Ripken's business affairs, for a detailed discussion.

Nothing is firm until that happens but Rainess told the group to prepare its articles of corporation, plus responding in a positive manner to what he has heard about the project and its progress.

The building that will be converted for the museum, meaning the city hall that's to be vacated for the one next door, already is available so no monies will be required for property acquisition. All is in place.

"The military museum at the Aberdeen Proving Grounds draws over 200,000 visitors a year," explained the mayor. "Our Ripken Museum will give tourists another good reason to spend time in Aberdeen, plus there's a Duck Decoy Museum in Havre de Grace and a Maritime Museum also will be established there. It bodes well for all of Harford County.

"There's no doubt Cal has created a reputation which sets him apart. The Ripken family has given much to the betterment of our way of life. This is the hometown of the Ripkens and we'd be remiss if we didn't want to create an appropriate setting where Cal's career can be highlighted and appreciated. Such outstanding collectors of Ripken memorabilia as Rick and Vicki Bowlus and Steve Callahan have provided their expertise."

A former mayor, George Englesson, has lent his support to the undertaking, along with other prominent community leaders. John Quarstein, a native of Kent County and curator of the War Museum in Newport News, Va., is involved with the Ripken endeavor and is providing his professional guidance in getting the museum established.

The exhibits will deal with all phases of Ripken's life, including his growing-up years of Little League, high school and then signing with the Orioles in 1978, going on to remarkable success. The philanthropic deeds of Cal and wife Kelly also will be highlighted in what McMahon and Bounds want to be an educational experience for visitors, both young and old, as well as an in-depth view of his baseball accomplishments.

"The excitement over the prospect of the Ripken Museum is almost beyond comprehension," said Bounds, operator of an appliance store in downtown Aberdeen. "Baltimore has the Babe Ruth Museum, which has been such a success, and now Aberdeen is getting ready to do something equally as important in behalf of Cal."

It can be said, without stretching the metaphor, that Aberdeen takes such pride in what's happening that it didn't have to fight city hall. In fact, city hall is providing the accommodation.

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