'A Great Teacher of the Game'
By Richard Justice
FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla., March 25 Cal Ripken Sr. was remembered today as a perfectionist and a tireless worker, a man who as much as almost anyone was responsible for a style of play that came to be known as "The Oriole Way."
In the 1970s and early '80s, "The Oriole Way" meant being a stickler for details ranging from base running to correct positioning in the outfield. It was a product of what was then one of baseball's best minor league systems and of a pair of minor league instructors Earl Weaver and Cal Ripken Sr., both of whom would later manage in the majors.
"Cal Senior was my mentor," Orioles Manager Ray Miller said. "He taught hundreds of us how the game was supposed to be played and taught. He taught me to fill out my first pitching chart. He ran our instructional league programs like a drill sergeant."
The Orioles learned of Cal Ripken Sr.'s death this afternoon their only day off during spring training. They had known his death was imminent since third baseman Cal Ripken Jr. returned to Baltimore to be with his father, but the news hit hard.
"It's hard to know where to begin," Chris Hoiles said. "On the baseball side, he was a great teacher of the game. He believed in doing things the right way, and he expected you to play that way. When people talk about 'The Oriole Way,' a lot of that goes back to Cal Senior teaching and doing the fundamentals. He believed those things won games, and he hammered on them."
None of the current Orioles except his son, Cal, played for Cal Ripken Sr., whose career with the franchise ended when he was fired as manager six games into the 1988 season. But Hoiles, like many other Orioles, got to know Cal Ripken Sr. through his sons, and through his work with youth baseball groups around Baltimore.
"Both of his sons [Cal and Bill] played the game the way he wanted it played," Hoiles said. "He instilled in them how to play. Cal Junior loves the game so much. He played every day regardless of how he felt, and that goes back to the work ethic he got from his dad. That's what his dad was all about."
Orioles owner Peter Angelos had discussed the possibility of Cal Ripken Sr. returning to the team several times over the years. Today, he recalled the reasons he wanted him back in uniform.
"Cal Ripken is an irreplaceable loss to baseball," Angelos said. "He devoted his life to the game. His methods and style were copied by many, if not all. I don't think there was ever a more knowledgeable baseball professional. He could tell you how to do it, and he could do it himself. He spent countless hours trying to develop young players."
Asked why he believed Ripken Sr. declined to return to the Orioles, Angelos said: "We'd discussed it a number of times. It seemed he'd decided not to undertake the travel and being away from home long periods of time. He'd already made his contribution. I think that's the way he felt."
© Copyright 1999 The Washington Post Company