Stars shine at Ripken gala



February 04, 2007|By Sloane Brown

It may have been the third annual Aspire Gala for the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation. But for the 600 guests this party was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Guests such as Steve and Mindy Geppi, Ray Daue, Laura Kiessling and William Jews found themselves mingling with more than a dozen Baseball Hall of Famers, and scads of former and current Baltimore Orioles - all there in honor of Cal Ripken Jr.'s forthcoming induction into the Hall of Fame.

Sprinkled among the crowd were the likes of B.J Surhoff, Melvin Mora, Joe Altobelli and Tom Seaver.

Step into a side room, and it was baseball nirvana. There was Johnny Bench in one corner, Steve Carlton in another and Rod Carew a few steps away. A collection of trading cards had come to life: Mike Boddicker, Boog Powell, Rich Dauer, Al Bumbry, Rick Dempsey, Jim Dwyer, Mike Flanagan, Storm Davis, Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer, John Shelby, Robin Roberts, Lenn Sakata and Earl Weaver, to name a few.

"We always have a blast. We're like kids when we get together," said former Oriole Scott McGregor, referring to his teammates on the 1983 World Series winning line-up, many of whom had gathered for the occasion.

"I'm here for the foundation because the old man caught for me in 1960 in Appleton, Wis.," said former O's manager and Hall of Famer Weaver. "That year Vi [Ripken] had to leave to go home to have Cal Jr."

"This is a thrill," said Cal Ripken Jr.'s wife, Kelly, as she surveyed the area. "I haven't seen many of these people for 15 years. Their kids are all grown now. ... How special it is that we have such a unique group of people here."

John Walsh, host of the television show, America's Most Wanted, was one of the evening's honorees. But, as far as he was concerned, he had come to honor the Ripken family.

"People don't know what Cal Sr., Bill and Cal Jr. have done for children for years. When other sports figures [have misbehaved], the Ripkens are icons and role models," he said.

A Drink With Diane Bell-McKoy

She loves a challenge, making a difference

As of Jan. 2, Diane Bell-McKoy, 55, went full-time as the new chief executive of Associated Black Charities. She has lived in the Baltimore area for two decades, serving as deputy mayor under Mayor Kurt Schmoke, as president and CEO of Empower Baltimore Inc. and, most recently, as a senior fellow at the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Bell-McKoy lives in the Ten Hills area of West Baltimore with her husband, Richard McKoy Jr., retired director of the city's office of emergency management.

How's the new job going?

I am so excited. This is the job I've wanted for the last 15 years. ... My career has always been focused on being a change agent. Focusing on how to move issues that impact our neighborhoods, communities and individuals to achieve positive outcomes. ... This organization ... just has such phenomenal potential to make a difference in the entire state.

Is this a big change from what you were doing?

It's a big change from [Annie E.] Casey. Casey allowed me to slow down, do research and gain national perspective and knowledge, and network with some phenomenal people in this world of nonprofits. I live for challenges. ... I love making a difference and I'm good at it.

Seems like that's one of the few benefits of maturity. You find out what you're good at.

Absolutely. And also, you have no problems with admitting what you don't know and going to find people who do know.

Do you think that was a problem when you were younger - that you didn't want to admit your own ignorance in some areas?

Um-hmm. I think it's a woman thing, too. I think it's particularly a challenge for black women. I think we spend so much time taking care of [others]. I think there are so many "isms" that, until you mature, you don't learn that the smartest thing is to take care of yourself first, and to know your strengths. It's kind of a message I try to pass on to younger women. ... It's important for me to share with them my own history of struggles and even the current vulnerabilities, fears and anxieties.

It sounds like that was something you would've appreciated when you were younger.

There was a whole period of my life where I wasn't sure who I was. [I had] a lack of self-esteem.

How did you overcome that?

Lots of relationships. In some instances, I needed to ask for help. Experience was a good teacher, including the failures.

Don't you find failure often teaches more, because you have to analyze how you failed?

I analyze everything. Everything.

Is that a problem?

Yeah. I can be very intense. My husband, and friends, will urge me to take a chill pill. I can be very passionate. That can be off-putting. So, I'm just aware of that. It's just who I am.

When don't you analyze?

Two times. I use shopping therapy. And I read. ... I shop for clothes and shoes. My husband's going to put me out soon if I buy any more shoes. I like deals. What shopper doesn't?

What do you read?

Catalogs, magazines. I probably have thousands of books. Mysteries are my favorite, particularly novels by African Americans. ... Historical novels, I love. Anything about the South, pre-Civil War. I'm convinced I was there.

Social Calendar



Benefits Health Care for the Homeless

Beer, wine, specialty drinks, food stations from more than 50 restaurants and caterers, live music, culinary demonstrations


M&T Bank Stadium, North Club Level Lounge


6 p.m.


$65 in advance, $70 at door


Call 443-703-1336 or go to

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