The Washington Post
Navigation Bar
Navigation Bar

Related Items
Cal Ripken Front

Orioles Memories

Orioles Section

Baseball Section

  Ripken: 'I Stand Here Overwhelmed'

By Richard Justice
Washington Post Staff Writer
September 7, 1995

BALTIMORE, SEPT. 6 — "We consider ourselves the luckiest fans on the face of the earth." — Sign at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.

Cal Ripken ended a long, emotional and historic day with a heart-tugging speech that thanked the people closest to him, evoked the great Lou Gehrig and ended with a lap around Oriole Park at Camden Yards in a red convertible.

Ripken waved and smiled as the packed house gave him the last of dozens of warm ovations, after he had been saluted by baseball greats past and present and had received gifts that included a huge landscaping rock with "2131" etched onto the side.

Yet it was Ripken's words that promise to endure on this night when he broke one of baseball's most revered records by playing in his 2,131st consecutive game.

"Tonight I stand here, overwhelmed, as my name is linked with the great and courageous Lou Gehrig," Ripken said, flanked by family, friends and current and former teammates. "I'm truly humbled to have our names spoken in the same breath."

Ripken had heard tributes from one of Gehrig's former teammates, Joe DiMaggio. He had heard from his boyhood idol, Brooks Robinson. He had listened as teammate Brady Anderson's voice cracked when he said:"You have inspired many teammates. You have delighted millions of fans. You have given the nation uncountable memories. Your pride in and love for the game are at a level few others will reach. . . . We are thrilled to play beside him today. . . . and for enabling us to share this wonderful moment in time. . . ."

Ripken had been escorted to the ceremony by his parents, Cal Sr. and Vi, and as he spoke, both of them looked on proudly.

"This year has been unbelievable," Ripken Jr. said. "I've been cheered in ballparks all over the country. People not only showed me their kindness, but more importantly, they demonstrated their love of the game of baseball. I give my thanks to baseball fans everywhere. . . . Tonight, I want to make sure you know how I feel. As I grew up here, I not only had dreams of being a big league ballplayer, but also of being a Baltimore Oriole. . . . For all of your support over the years, I want to thank you, the fans of Baltimore, from the bottom of my heart. This is the greatest place to play."

Ripken said he was afraid to thank any single person because he might leave out someone. But he had to mention four: his parents, former teammate Eddie Murray and wife Kelly.

Ripken said his dad "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 the game of baseball, but also he taught me to play it the right way and to play it the Oriole way."

He gestured toward his mother and said: "She let my dad lead the way on the field, but she was there in every other way — leading and shaping the lives of our family off the field. She's the glue who held our lives together while we grew up, and she's always been my inspiration."

He said Murray"showed me how to play this game, day in and day out. I thank him for his example and for his friendship."

Finally, he mentioned his wife — "the most important person in my life. . . . She has enriched it with her friendship and with her love. I thank you, Kelly, for the advice, support and joy you have brought to me, and for always being there. You, Rachel and Ryan are my life."

Among the gifts Ripken received was a new truck and a pool table. Mark Belanger, speaking on behalf of major league players, said a youth baseball park — Inspiration Field — would be built in Ripken's hometown of Aberdeen, Md.

A hush fell over the park as the great DiMaggio stepped to the microphone to speak.

"Wherever my former teammate, Lou Gehrig, is today, I'm sure he's tipping his cap to you, Cal," DiMaggio said. "You certainly deserve this lasting tribute."

© Copyright 1996 Washington Post Company

Back to the Top

Navigation Bar
Navigation Bar