Our Cal

September 06, 1995

Somewhere in this favored city, we should like to think, today a male infant is being born, and named Cal.

Somewhere, as the possibilities grow, a court of law is approving a grown-up's change of name, to become Mr., Mrs. or Ms. Calripken.

Fielding still another dream -- from a window at 2131 East or West Baltimore Street, or 2131 Maryland Avenue, a banner flies: black background, large yellow numeral 8.

In the distance: north and east of Baltimore, traffic on U.S. 40 is backed up for miles, by the street dancing in Ripkentown, formerly Aberdeen.

Politics enters, the governor of California vowing that, once elected president, he will change the postal abbreviation out there from CA to CAL.

Hold on -- back at that Baltimore maternity ward, it turns out instead to be twins; girls, yet. Okay, their names will be Callie and Vinnie.

To be a Baltimorean is to feel, right now, exalted. Some 1,525 daily newspapers are still published in this country and every last one, it may well be, will print a news story tomorrow that is datelined Baltimore -- a great-news, feel-wonderful story.

The news is of a new endurance mark, one that won't be outdone until the 2000s, if then; a mark set by a Baltimore Oriole, by a man who as a major leaguer has played only for our Orioles. Season after season, starting in 1982, our tall shortstop has never missed a game. His bones refused to crack; his joints, on being wrenched, simply unwrenched; his sinews (no matter how hard he flung the ball over to first) never tore. People applaud Cal's upbringing; a further help from family is that while the Birds were on the road, no call came to be present instead for wedding or funeral. The nation that reads, or watches some announcer read, will long equate the name Ripken with stoic, determined toughness.

For there to be interest in continuity, a sport has to have gone on awhile; only in the current century did baseball's busy statisticians, checking for uninterrupted participation, proclaim their first durability champ -- at 727 consecutive pennant-season games, Steve Brodie, centerfielder for the 1890s Baltimore Orioles. The original games-in-a-row search, however, had to do with base hits. There the original titleholder, at 44 games, proved to be Willie Keeler, rightfielder for the 1890s Orioles.

Is perseverance a municipal characteristic? Let others say -- watching us struggle, even now, to get the world to spell Calvin Edwin Ripken Jr. correctly.

With Cal Ripken, just as much off the diamond as on, another quality shines. Put it this way, as the Camden Warehouse banner signals 2 1 3 1: What a city this would be, what a state, were those of us watching and cheering to go forth, afterward, bent on creating some kind of excellence and decency streak of our own.

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