Ripkens under glass Aberdeen's new museum: Showcase for a family synonymous with baseball in Maryland.

December 15, 1996

FEELING BLUE about Cal Jr. being shifted to third? You already miss brother Billy, who is returning to Texas to play baseball? Still steamed about announcer Jon Miller's departure? You can get a pick-me-up -- an orange-and-black blood transfusion -- in Aberdeen. The Ripken Museum has just opened there in an old stone portion of City Hall.

This is a fine boutique gallery. It accommodates only 35 visitors at a time. But the architect got the most he could from limited space.

The museum was formed by civic leaders in Aberdeen -- where Cal Jr., his brothers and sister were raised and his parents still live -- as well as the Ripkens and their associates. Its purpose is three-fold: a repository for memorabilia from the Ripkens' years in baseball, a regional attraction and an educational experience for children and adults.

The visitor is greeted at the entrance by brick arches and iron gingerbread, evocative of Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Well-designed exhibits will interest hard-core and casual fans alike, with memorabilia ranging from the Ripken boys' Little League togs (mom Vi Ripken saved everything!) to a wall full of gear from the memorable nights when Cal Jr. tied and broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games streak.

Like any good museum, though, this one is more than a lot of old stuff under glass. It tells a tale of fate and family ties: What if Cal Sr. hadn't joined the Aberdeen Canners semi-pro team and instead had dropped out of baseball in the 1950s? Would Cal Jr. be a dentist in Bel Air?

Staffed by volunteers, the museum (410-273-2525) opens only on weekends. It hopes to expand its schedule later and plans to take over all of City Hall after Aberdeen's government gets new quarters. About $400,000 in state bond money is being sought for this $2 million project, backed by corporations and individuals as well. Admission is $1 to $3.

This showcase at U.S. 40 and Belair Ave. contribute to the "critical mass" of tourist attractions in Harford County and the region, aided by a widely recognizable name and the public's love of the game.

Pub Date: 12/15/96

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