Behind the new Iron Man is old pillar of stone dad 2,131: RIPKEN PASSES GEHRIG

September 07, 1995|By Arthur Hirsch | Arthur Hirsch,Sun Staff Writer

Emotions? What emotions, says the Iron Man's old man.

"I'm an old stone-faced crabby old [guy]. I don't have any emotions," says Cal Ripken Sr.

Not even when they unroll the new number, he says. Not even when the ovations roll over the park like a tsunami, he says.

There he stands outside his sky box on the club level minutes before game time in a dignified gray-blue suit, white shirt and blue and red necktie. The white hair combed straight back, the face like a visage seen jutting from the sand at Easter Island. Tuesday night was his first night back in Camden Yards since he was fired as a coach in 1992, but he's not confessing any special feeling about that, either.

All right, he'll go this far about The Streak: You have to look at the standing ovations and the media onslaught and the crowds and the drumbeat of hype and "then you see a man go out and perform, it's marvelous. You marvel. I sit and marvel at a man who can go out and do this.

"The man has to have nerves of iron, he has to be iron all the way through to cope with all of this," Cal Sr. says. "It's just hard to fathom how big this is. It's huge."

But not so big that he would necessarily need to talk to his son. He says he did not speak to Cal Jr. when he made 2,130 Tuesday night. Says he hasn't talked to the kid in 10 days or so. Tonight, though, when the kid breaks one of the longer-standing records in baseball history, yes, they might have a word or two.

After Cal Jr. breaks the record tonight, Cal Sr. says, he has no idea what he'll say to his son.

"There isn't anything you can say," says Cal Sr. "The way he has gone out and accepted all this. He understands the world in which we live," he says, referring to the endless media attention.

No, he doesn't remember what they talked about when last they spoke. Advice? Forget it.

"He doesn't need any of my advice," says the first man ever to hit ground balls to the All-Star shortstop. The drills went on and on, something like Marine training.

"Being around me at home, there's only one way to do things -- that's the right way," says Cal Sr. Being around the old man on the ball field, he says, Cal Jr. learned to work at the job and keep working.

"Cal has done that very well," he says. "He developed good work habits."

Guess so -- check the warehouse numbers a story tall: 2,130, soon to be 2,131. Good habits, right, but the old man is taking no credit for any of it.

"I'm not responsible for that; he's responsible for that."

Cal Sr., however, is responsible for the lawn at the homestead in Aberdeen and the tomato plants, both of which he tended to Tuesday and Wednesday afternoon. Two average days at the house, then off to the park to watch the boy make baseball history and wring tears from the eyes of a few thousand grown men. If not the old man himself.

"I'm not an emotional person," he says. Later, during the 22-minute, 15-second ovation for his son during the fifth inning, he's true to his word: Cal Sr. waves to Cal Jr. and hugs his wife, but that's about it.

No family celebration is planned tonight, Cal Sr. says, or any time soon.

"Maybe sometime after the season's over we'll get together and have some crabs or something."

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