Cal Ripken Jr. recently visited The Sun for a wide-ranging question-and-answer session to discuss the Hall of Fame and other matters related to his career. He was interviewed by Sun staff members Dan Connolly, John Eisenberg, Peter Schmuck and Childs Walker. We excerpt the interview below:
Coming into baseball, it wasn't about you being the star of the team. The Hall of Fame is such a huge individual honor. Could you put it into context with your family and yourself, and what you thought of it growing up and what you think of it now.
I always deferred those kinds of questions or feelings to a point where you are retired or sitting in a rocking chair when you can reflect on it. So now I've been out of baseball five years, there is plenty of chance to sit back and reflect on that because all you really have is what you used to do. That doesn't mean your life stops. You look back and you start to think about and feel pretty good about your contributions to the game.
All I really try and do is live up to my potential and do as well as I possibly could and to bring to the ballpark each and every day a good effort and do the best that I could each and every day. So looking back on it and reflecting, which is where I am now, it brings you back to some of those moments and some of those accomplishments. And, obviously, being elected to the Hall of Fame is the ultimate. It is a collection of what you were able to accomplish.
An endorsement of you as a player?
It endorses who you are as a player and what your contributions were. And it doesn't take into consideration the team. Although MVP awards and all those things turn out to be how valuable you are to the team.
Being elected to the Hall of Fame is about your career pretty much and your impact on the game. So looking back on those things, the proudest thing that I have that I can think of is being given credit [for] changing the mind-set of being a shortstop. The guys like Derek [Jeter] and Alex [Rodriguez] come along and thank me for that. And I try and put it into perspective that my success at the position maybe just changed the attitude towards the position, not necessarily the mind-set. It was going to happen anyway, and there was going to be a natural evolution. But looking back on it, the game's best players have come through the shortstop position. Offensively and defensively.
And I take special pride, and it wasn't my plan in life. I was a third baseman. Earl [Weaver] put me over there. And I always thought it would be a temporary move. A temporary move lasted 15 years there. The mark that I left on that position as it was to players and future players was a really proud moment.
It's fun to look back on your career and look at those team moments. By far, the best moment of my big league career was when I caught the last out at the World Series. Of all the great things that had happened, catching the last out at the World Series and having that feeling of satisfaction and fulfillment that comes over you at that moment, none of those other individual moments come close to.
The best human moment ... was the lap around Camden Yards [during the 2,131st consecutive game]. It was very spontaneous. I didn't want the game to be interrupted that long out of respect of the players of the other team, the fans for the game. You should get the game going and celebrate after the game. When I was pushed down the line, that celebration turned into a celebration that was very one-on-one, and one that was very heartfelt. It's great when everyone is clapping for you, 50,000 strong, all of these personal moments that occurred around that lap, including an interaction with my dad, the personal family there, the California Angels, my teammates and everyone else that I was able to touch. That was probably the best human moment.
What memories do you have of visiting the Hall of Fame?
The greatest experience I had there was when Eddie Murray was inducted. I came up for the day and sat down, and I wasn't sure what to expect in that celebration, and I felt a little bit for Eddie because he isn't someone who likes to get up there and stand up and talk. He's a wonderful man with a great heart and has plenty of words most all the time, but when it comes to standing in front of a microphone, it isn't the most comfortable place. And I wasn't sure what it was going to be like when he got up there, and I think he moved everybody. ... Eddie got to my dad and he started to talk about my dad and made me well up and start to cry. And you looked around and a lot of people had that same feeling.
How do you feel about the knowledge that you are going to be among the plaques on the wall in the Hall of Fame?