The Great One(s)


April 24, 1999|By Andrew Ratner

WITH ITS own sport in which players beat each other with sticks, Maryland can be forgiven if it didn't get as emotional about Wayne Gretzky's retirement as other parts of this continent.

Certainly, the departure from hockey of the man rightly described as its greatest player caused tears in Canada, where Mr. Gretzky won four Stanley Cup championships, and in U.S. cities where he played or where hockey is revered.

In Baltimore, which couldn't make a go of minor-league hockey, there was for a time more excitement about Canadian football than about the true national sport of the Great White North. In Maryland's horse country, some folks were more moved by the recent retirement of Julie Krone, the winningest female jockey and the only woman to win a Triple Crown race, than by the Great Gretzky's graceful exit.

The retirements of Mr. Gretzky and, previously, Michael Jordan make one wonder how Baltimore will mark the end of Cal Ripken Jr.'s career. That has seemed more real in recent weeks with a bad back landing him on the disabled list for the first time in 19 years. Let's hope Mr. Ripken heals well and returns soon to the Orioles.

We also hope -- and suspect -- that Baltimore's send-off when he retires will be suitably warm and celebratory of an athlete who has long been a positive symbol for his sport and city.

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