Reflecting on Our Iron ManTo Cal Ripken, Jr.: By now, to...


September 17, 1995

Reflecting on Our Iron Man

To Cal Ripken, Jr.: By now, to hear or see this must almost be boring, but I would like to offer my congratulations on equaling, exceeding and continuing to establish a new standard of excellence every time you take the field in the coming months and years.

The mantle has been passed from baseball's first great "iron man," Lou Gehrig, to the second, Cal Ripken, Jr. May you continue to wear this collar with the same grace, dignity and humbleness you have displayed since day one. Perhaps somewhere in this great land there is a youngster going to bed tonight whose parents are instilling the same values, as yours did to you, who one day will stand before a sellout crowd and graciously accept the mantle from you.

Wouldn't it be great if that happened again in Baltimore? As you know, this is a town noted for its work ethic. During World War II, more than 50,000 men and women united and worked as a team to build bombers at the Martin plant in Middle River. Odds are that at least one member of your family contributed to that effort. Most families in Baltimore can say the same.

In a sense, your achievement is a tribute to all the citizens of this area and the entire country who go about their business day-in and day-out, year-in and year-out working at their jobs and raising families. These people generally don't receive much recognition. But they are there.

In my own case, I arise before dawn, exercise for an hour, drive from my home in Harford County to my full-time job in Washington, D.C., work part-time several evenings a week and even manage to squeeze in an occasional drug study as a "guinea pig" for a local medical drug testing firm. My wife is a full-time volunteer for the Harford County Emergency Medical System. In addition, we have two children who are involved in all the standard activities, such as school, sports and 4-H. Throw in church schedule. But, I do not believe we are unique.

There are many men and women across this land who do just whatever it takes in order to support and raise a family. You don't hear much about it because crime, divorce and the latest political happenings generally take the front page of the news. But we are there. All of these people are "the iron men" of our society. You are the icon, Mr. Ripken. All of us feel a link to you. You are our leader. In a sense, every time you take the field in the future, setting a new record, you will be representing us -- normal people who take the playing field of life every day. May God continue to bless you and your family, and thanks again for being who you are.

illiam H. Muth

Bel Air


On National Public Radio's "All Things Considered," Robert Segal interviewed John Steadman to obtain background on Ripken and his record-breaking accomplishment. Mr. Steadman had the audacity in keeping with the current incredible publicity bash to state that Ripken's record must be seen as something greater than the one he was about to surpass. To NPR's credit, it followed the Steadman absurdity with the author of a Gehrig biography, "Iron Horse," which places Ripken's feat in a more meaningful perspective.

Some of the Gehrig numbers were cited:

* Lifetime average -- .340

* Nearly 500 home runs.

* Nearly 1,100 runs batted in.

In one of the many World Series in which he participated, his batting average was an incredible .600. There were other accomplishments which I don't remember but one more, according to the author, is not generally known. Following Babe Ruth's famous "called shot" home run, Gehrig hit one himself.

I don't wish to belittle Ripken's effort. It's a tribute to a sports figure who is willing to maintain a high level of fitness and an intense desire to dedicate himself to the game. My problem is the media's constant and incomplete comparison with the Gehrig record. (The Sun has been carrying stories in most every section.) One can only speculate how long he would have gone if he had not contracted ALS.

There is another side of the Ripken story which has received little attention; only in Mike Littwin's column in the Sept. 4 Sun have I seen it mentioned. Ripken, like every other player, superstar or journeyman player, has seen his share of slumps. Most managers, since their responsibility to the owners (and fans) is to have a winning team, will bench a player for a while. This has not happened to Ripken. He came each day ready to play, but, for the most part, this is not the player's choice.

Excellent health, a certain amount of good fortune and, it seems hard to deny, special treatment, have all contributed to his accomplishments.

L Let's be fair about this thing: Cal Ripken is no Lou Gehrig.

Grover Condon



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