Ripken's roots run deep in Maryland, with hundreds of relatives

September 04, 1995|By Mike Klingaman | Mike Klingaman,Sun Staff Writer

Call them Rip's kin.

Calvin Edwin Ripken's ancestral roots are planted so deep in Maryland soil that "hundreds" of area residents unknowingly are related to the Oriole star, says a genealogist who has traced the Ripken family tree.

Most of those relatives have distant ties to the ballplayer's mother, whose forebears settled in northeast Maryland more than two centuries ago.

"Calvin could be found to have tenuous connections to almost anyone with extensive ancestry in Harford County," says John Livezey, vice president of the Maryland Genealogical Society, who examined Ripken's lineage. "I've found hundreds [of distant relatives] in the historical records."

Including Mr. Livezey. But the Aberdeen resident isn't itching for an Orioles tryout. His baseball bloodlines are thin, he says.

"Unless you're at least a second cousin, you're unlikely to share any genetic relationship with Calvin," he says.

"Still, it's an interesting notion to play with."

Ripken hails from Aberdeen, where his parents still reside.

According to research by Mr. Livezey and Donna Williams of the Maryland Historical Society, Ripken's father, Cal Sr., is the grandson of 19th-century German immigrants, Frederick Peter Ripken and Affena Lubina Wychgram. They settled in Harford County and opened a general store in Stepney, a crossroads three miles south of Aberdeen.

There, in a tiny room above the store, Cal Sr. was born, the third son of Arend Frederick Ripken and Clara Amelia Oliver Ripken, an Irishwoman whose farming family also immigrated to America in the mid-1800s.

Arend Ripken was the first of the clan to play baseball, taking part in sandlot games on weekends.

His sons were more passionately involved: Oliver Ripken played in semipro leagues; Bill played professionally for Montreal, the Brooklyn Dodgers' top farm club in the 1940s; and Cal Sr. spent more than three decades in the Orioles' organization as player, coach and manager.

Cal Sr. would also marry Violet Roberta Gross, a mechanic's daughter of German/English descent whom he'd met while attending Aberdeen High.

It's Vi Ripken's rich lineage that offers Marylanders their best chance to rub ancestral elbows with "cousin Cal."

Mrs. Ripken's "antecedents include many long-established Harford County families [including Gross, Mitchell and Cullum], a number of whom came here long before the American Revolution," Mr. Livezey says.

Men like Samuel Webb, a soldier who fought in the Revolutionary War, and Roger Matthews, a 17th-century emigre who founded a line that would spawn thousands of area descendants.

"You can trace Cal's family back to some of the earliest settlers in this area," Mr. Livezey says.

Most of Ripken's ancestors were hard-working men -- farmers, blacksmiths, millers and laborers.

Their descendants include several prominent Marylanders, including Aberdeen insurance executive Charles Oliver, owner of Oliver's Twist, runner-up in this year's Preakness Stakes; and W. Dale Hess, the one-time state legislator who was convicted of mail fraud and racketeering in the 1977 political corruption trial of former Maryland Gov. Marvin Mandel.

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