And now, the writing about Cal Ripken, Jr. that I mentioned yesterday, composed by my dad:
When our family moved to Maryland in October, 1980 our three sons were 7, 5 and 3. It was the month before the presidential election and as it turned out, only three months remained in the Carter presidency. The Mormon temple near Connecticut Avenue was brand new. When we purchased a home, our realtor gushed about how fortunate we were to get a 12.78% interest rate. There were still pastures off Interstate 270 in Gaithersburg with herds of cows.
And it was the fall before Cal Ripken, Jr. began his major league career.
Camden Yards in Baltimore is a beautiful baseball park, but Memorial Stadium was the home of great baseball. We went to several games a year, and our boys grew up watching Cal Ripken. Along with hundreds of other kids, they knew not only where the players parked their cars under the stadium. They recognized their cars. After every game, our boys wanted to go around to the side of the stadium and wait for the players to come out. Sometimes we wouldn’t let them, but a lot of times we would.
One night we were standing in the parking lot long after the game was over. The boys had waited by the gate, seen several of the players and gotten some autographs. It was late and I was ready to go home, but the boys insisted that Cal’s car had not left. It was so late that as we stood there the lights inside the stadium were turned off.
I told my sons that we had to go, and as we were leaving, Cal’s car started edging out of the gate. We were about 20 yards away and as the boys started to run toward the car, we saw a girl–I guessed at the time a 10 year-old–and what must have been her little brother. From about 10 yards away we watched from the shadows (the parking lot lights had also been turned off) as they approached Cal’s car (if you’re wondering where their parents were, so did I, but let’s not mess up the story).
What we saw next was more amazing to me than any of Cal Ripken’s homers, great plays or Iron Man streaks. The girl had in her hands a stack (not a few, but a stack!) of snapshots and she and her little brother pointed to the pictures and told Cal about them as he looked at each one. It was not a perfunctory, quick look that says “Yeah, that’s nice.” He took time to look at each one, and talked to them about what they were looking at together.
When the girl and her brother left, we walked quickly up to the car. I don’t think he knew we’d been standing there. As he signed my sons’ baseballs, cards and caps, I said, “Cal, that was really cool,” and he actually looked embarrassed, as if he’d been caught doing something he wasn’t supposed to do.
Jason, Nathan, Dylan and I are going to Cooperstown this weekend to see Cal Ripken, Jr. inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. We’re leaving Friday morning and coming back Monday. A lot of glowing words will be spoken about his career, and deservedly so.
As for me, while I’m standing in the heat at Cooperstown with no telling how many thousands of other people, I’ll be honoring a guy who took the time to look at pictures with two children after a long night’s work when there no cameras or sportswriters around. And I’ll honor a great player who over and over again had time for my three sons.