Ripken Sr. has lung cancer Doctors 'optimistic' of recovery, says wife of longtime O's coach

October 06, 1998|By Mike Klingaman | Mike Klingaman,SUN STAFF

Cal Ripken Sr., a tough and tireless baseball man who spent 36 years in the Orioles' chain as manager, coach, scout and player, is battling lung cancer, his family has disclosed.

Ripken, 62, was diagnosed last week at Johns Hopkins Hospital, where he is receiving cancer treatment as an outpatient, his wife, Vi, told The Sun.

"Doctors found a tumor on Calvin's lung, came up with a plan and started the wheels moving. That's the nuts and bolts of it," Vi Ripken said.

Ripken, father of Orioles third baseman Cal Ripken Jr., began receiving chemotherapy several days ago, his wife said. Doctors are hopeful the medication can help shrink the tumor, she said.

"The team of specialists seems very optimistic that this treatment will take care of the problem," Vi Ripken said. "It's not going to be easy, but they seem sure that this will be a success.

"It's a positive outlook, and we're pleased with the evaluation."

A native of Aberdeen, Ripken signed with Baltimore in 1957 as a catcher. But he soon turned to managing, toiling 14 years in the minors -- a club record.

His teams finished first or second on seven occasions, earning Ripken a reputation as a baseball clinician and a berth on the Orioles' coaching staff in 1976.

A wiry, chain-smoking, bantam of a man, Ripken was a fixture as third base coach during two of the Orioles' pinnacle years: 1979, when the club lost the World Series to Pittsburgh, and 1983, when Baltimore defeated Philadelphia for the world championship.

He was named manager in 1987, replacing Earl Weaver, who had retired for a second time.

Ripken's reign was short. He took over a last-place team, piloting the Orioles that season and, briefly, in 1988, when he was fired after an 0-6 start. The Orioles went on to lose their first 21 games, setting a big-league mark for futility.

Ripken's record as manager: 67 victories, 101 losses. His tenure had its highlights. Ripken was the first in the majors ever to manage two of his sons (Cal Jr. and Bill, then the Orioles' second baseman). The three Ripkens appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1987.

That same year, Ripken the manager replaced Ripken the shortstop late in a game, ending Cal Jr.'s streak of 8,243 consecutive innings played, believed the longest in major-league history.

In 1989, Ripken was rehired as Orioles third base coach, a post he held for four more years. He was dismissed at the end of the 1992 season, in part because of what team officials perceived as Ripken's lingering bitterness over having been fired as manager years before.

Now he spends his time tending the family garden and running the Cal Ripken Baseball School, a summer camp for children, at Mount St. Mary's College in Emmitsburg.

Ripken's cancer was detected in the course of a regular checkup, his wife said.

"He'd been bothered by some little odds and ends, so he finally went to the doctor," Vi Ripken said. He is resting comfortably at home.

"He doesn't feel great, but he doesn't feel bad either," she said. "He's just experiencing what so many others have experienced of late."

Pub Date: 10/06/98

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