Honored Ripken says he's not done at 3,000

He speaks of another title during emotional tribute

May 01, 2000|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

The largest regular-season crowd in Camden Yards history came out on a perfect spring afternoon yesterday to honor Cal Ripken and life was beautiful for the 48,563 fans when their 3,000-hit hero said, "Hopefully, I have a little bit left in me. I don't know how much more, but some left in me."

The exuberant crowd also roared when Ripken told them, "It seems like I've had a storybook career, but the final chapter hasn't been written yet. Hopefully it will include a world championship."

It was certainly a Cal Ripken and Baltimore kind of day.

There was family first, with Vi Ripken welling up in tears when her son said, "Mom, every day I put my uniform on, I know Dad is with me." Those words about the late Orioles coach and manager even caused an emotional Ripken to step back and recollect his thoughts.

Close baseball friends were next, with Jim Palmer and fellow 3,000-hit members Eddie Murray and Dave Winfield all paying moving tributes to Ripken. Palmer joked: "I gave up around 3,000 hits, so I guess that's why I'm here."

The usually low-key Murray said, "You have touched everybody's heart around here at one time or another."

The pre-game ceremony was surrounded by a touch of everything Ripken has stood for since he collected his first major-league hit on a Sunday afternoon, Aug. 16, 1981, at Memorial Stadium. It was an infield single off Dennis Lamp.

There were 30,000 hot dogs and 3,000 half-gallons of milk presented to the Iron Man along with a large oil painting of hit No. 3,000 and a 22-karat gold bat to commemorate the historic moment in Minnesota 16 days ago.

Topping off the gift presentations was a customized cherry bat case to honor the seven players who have reached 3,000 hits and 400 home runs. Four of the bats representing Hank Aaron, Willie Mays, Stan Musial and Carl Yastrzemski were already in the case.

Then Murray placed a fifth bat and Winfield followed with a sixth, leaving Ripken with a special place to put a bat of his choice in the case to complete the collection of the seven men who made it to the cherished plateau.

As Ripken left the stage at the end of the 30-minute ceremony, which included a six-minute video tribute to his career on the JumboTron, he hugged his daughter, Rachel, wife, Kelly, son, Ryan and mom, Vi and shook hands with his brothers Fred and Billy and chatted with Fred's two children, Austin and Mariah.

Ripken, Murray and Winfield all had the honors of throwing out the first pitches to Terry Crowley, Elrod Hendricks and Harold Baines who were all in uniform on that Aug. 16, 1981, day.

The only thing that ruined the day was an 8-4 loss and Ripken went 0-for-4.

But four hours later the man of the day finally stood alone in front of his locker and talked about an unbelievable love affair with the Orioles fans.

"I can just feel all the warmth coming from the stands every time I step on the field," he said. "I have the same feelings for the fans that they keep sending to me. It's so beautiful. I wish everybody who ever dreamed of playing for their hometown team could experience what I've been so lucky to have."

Then the subject turned back to Cal Ripken Sr. and Junior again teared up, voicing love for "my dad who gave all this knowledge of the game to me."

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