'The Ripken Way': in life as in baseball

April 25, 1999|By Edwin O. Guthman | By Edwin O. Guthman,Special to the Sun

"The Ripken Way: A Manual for Baseball and Life," by Cal Ripken, Sr. and Larry Burke. Pocket Books. 231 pages. $22.

Cal Ripken Sr., who died March 25 of lung cancer, has bequeathed to mothers and fathers, boys and girls, baseball players and all athletes a book of insight and advice about life and sports that is very readable, candid and loaded with horse sense.

Opening the book with a heartfelt foreword, Cal Ripken Jr. began by quoting from the speech he made on Sept. 6, 1995, at Camden Yards after breaking Lou Gehrig's record by playing in his 2,131st consecutive game.

"Let me start by thanking my dad. He inspired me with his commitment to the Oriole tradition and made me understand the importance of it. He not only taught me the fundamentals of baseball, but he also taught me to play it the right way, and to play it the Oriole way."

Then, Ripken wrote:

"Would there have been a streak had it not been for the lessons of discipline, dedication, determination and desire that my father taught me? Heck, there might not have been a career were it not for my dad. There might not even have been a big league appearance. . . ."

The four D's -- discipline, dedication, determination and desire -- reappear repeatedly as Ripken Sr., assisted by Larry Burke, a Sports Illustrated senior editor, traced his life from boyhood in a "baseball family" in Aberdeen, Md., through eight seasons as a minor league catcher and 31 in the Oriole organization as a minor league manager and major league scout, coach and manager and finally, coping with the cancer that struck suddenly and ended his life at age 64.

"There's definite value for all kids who participate in and play sports," he wrote. "Whether it's baseball, soccer, football, basketball, or another sport there are great things to be gained. . . .in sports you have to be dedicated, you have to be disciplined, and you have to have desire and determination to do it. You have to display those traits to succeed in every walk of life."

But, he cautioned, don't force "anything."

"There are too many people in the world who have to work at a job that they don't enjoy, and then it really becomes a job," Ripken wrote. ". . . You have to give a young person the opportunity to do what he would like to do."

And while practicing what he preached, Ripken noted " 'It's great to be young and an Oriole' -- I've said that so many times as a coach and manager in the minor leagues. It didn't make any difference how old I was."

However, baseball could be improved by expanding the designated hitter rule to the National League and by splitting the majors into three leagues, redesigned on a geographic basis and eliminating "all the travel," he asserted, while also foreseeing the opportunity for women to play in the big leagues "far greater today than it has ever been."

But, baseball is "just a walk of life," he wrote. "The things that you do in baseball, you really do in life." The Ripken Way was to play the games of baseball and life all-out with tremendous desire to participate and achieve the very best he could.

Edwin O. Guthman, a professor at the University of Southern California school of journalism, was editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer from 1977 to 1987, and before that served on the Los Angeles Times, the Seattle Times and the Seattle Star. He was press secretary to Robert F. Kennedy when R.F.K. was U. S. attorney general and when he first ran for the U.S. Senate. He has edited and written several books, including "We Band of Brothers" in 1971.

Pub Date: 04/25/99

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