Brother, father form historic trio with Cal Jr. Family Ties bind season THE RIPKEN YEARS: 1987

July 09, 1995|By Brad Snyder | Brad Snyder,Sun Staff Writer

It should have been Cal Ripken's finest hour. His father, Cal Sr., was his manager. His brother, Bill, was his double-play partner. They were the first father-son trio in history and the envy of their Orioles teammates.

"I used to talk with my father about that," former Orioles pitcher Scott McGregor said. "Can you imagine you and your dad traveling around the country playing in the major leagues? It was like a dream come true. You don't write a story like that."

Cal Sr. had spent 24 seasons as a minor-league manager and major-league coach. He twice was passed over for Orioles manager in favor of Joe Altobelli and Earl Weaver (the second time). His son was the team's star shortstop.

Playing for his father was Ripken's dream.

But it was not his dream season.

Ripken finished with the lowest batting average (.252) of his career at that point and third-lowest to date. He hit 27 home runs and led the Orioles with 98 RBIs, batting .326 through May 16 but only .229 the rest of the way.

His batting average dropped, and talk about ending the streak increased. Ripken extended his consecutive games streak to 927, sixth on the all-time list and the longest streak in the majors since Dale Murphy's streak of 740 ended in July 1986.

If anyone could have ended the consecutive games streak, it was Cal Sr. Instead, he ended the consecutive innings streak, which, at 8,243, is believed to be the longest in major-league history.

"I don't think any other manager would have done it," former Orioles pitcher Jeff Ballard said. "They might have asked him, but Cal never would have said, 'Yeah.' "

Cal Sr. didn't ask Cal Jr. if he wanted to come out of an 18-3 Sept. 14 drubbing by the Blue Jays in Toronto. He just did it. Cal Jr. was still on base when the top of the eighth ended. Bill instinctively grabbed for his brother's cap and glove.

"That's the wrong glove," his father said.

"No," Bill said, "This is Cal's."

"That's the wrong glove," his father repeated.

Cal Jr. was no longer in the game. Ron Washington was the new shortstop.

Cal Jr. started the next day, leaving the innings streak behind without a word of protest. Their father-son relationship never infringed upon the relationship between shortstop and manager.

"They were just very professional," Ballard said. "I never saw the three of them huddled in the corner, alienating themselves."

If anything, Cal Jr. was the most established of the family trio. Cal Sr. was a rookie manager, and Bill was a rookie second baseman.

Bill did not start the season with the Orioles. He came to spring training with a high uniform number (56), with the reputation as a good-field, no-hit second baseman and with a ticket to Rochester. But when the Orioles released second baseman Rick Burleson midway through the season and called up Bill, he surprised them by hitting .308 in 58 games.

He also made it easier for his father to keep him in the lineup.

"I think it was harder to manage Billy than to manage Cal," said former Orioles first baseman Jim Traber, who played with the Ripkens in 1986 and 1988. "I know what Billy can do because I saw him in practice every day - he was a terrific defensive player. There were those stupid people who said that he's Cal's brother, that's why he's playing."

Bill was more volatile than his stoical father and brother. All three of them downplayed the national media attention surrounding the Orioles' family affair. They chose their words carefully, but emanated a silent pride.

"Pride is one of the biggest things in that family," Traber said. "It's not a family in public you are going to see them hugging. They realized baseball was a profession, a job. They loved each other, they respected each other. You wouldn't say, 'Yeah, they're real close.' You'd know they're close by being around them all the time."

Nothing hurt that pride more than the Orioles' 67-95 finish, sixth in the AL East and at the time the third-worst record in club history.

Cal Jr.'s frustrations spilled over Sept. 25 against the New York Yankees, when he was ejected in the first inning for arguing balls and strikes with umpire Tim Welke. It was his first career ejection.

It would not be his last opportunity to lose his cool: The frustrations increased, the losing continued and the family dream turned into a nightmare.

The year in baseball . . .

* Roger Clemens wins his second straight American League Cy Young Award.

* Dwight Gooden is suspended for two months after using cocaine.

* Nolan Ryan leads the National League in ERA and strikeouts, despite an 8-16 record.

* Mark McGwire sets a major-league rookie record with 49 homers.

* Paul Molitor has a 39-game hitting streak in July and August.

* The Twins win their first World Series, defeating the Cardinals by winning all four home games.

. . . and the world

* Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev promotes glasnost, or openness.

* Oliver North (left) captures the national spotlight during the Iran-contra hearings.

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