An apology to Cal Ripken, Jr.

ripken 2Cal Ripken Jr. is one of the nicest, and best, people in baseball history. His major accomplishment, setting legendary Lou Gehrig’s record for most consecutive games played, proves his work ethic and dedication to the game.

Although he’d never want to admit it I get a lot of my negativity from my Dad. When Ripken set the record in 1996 my Dad wrote it off. “Eh, his record doesn’t count,” he’d say. “Did he play during the strike?” Instead of acknowledging Ripken’s amazing feat he didn’t see it as an accomplishment because of the previous year’s baseball strike. But the strike had nothing to do with Ripken and doesn’t at all diminish the dedication it takes to play so many games in a row.

My oldest nephew’s name is Cal. Although his parents deny it I know it was inspired by Cal Ripken Jr., one of my former brother-in-laws heroes. I’d always try to get him going by making fun of Ripken: “You know, his streak doesn’t count because of the strike, right?” It never worked. He’d just shake his head.

Today I watched most of MLB Network’s “My Most Memorable Game” series with Ripken talking about the game he broke Gehrig’s record. Watching it I was finally able to understand why he is so highly regarded in baseball. He has a great attitude and an obvious love for the game. He’s also very humble. He nearly cried several times when he talked about how much his Dad, Orioles’ legend Ripken Sr., meant to him.

Ripken is a good example of some of the most important lessons in life: persistence, perseverance, and love and respect for what you do. As a guy who usually can’t even make it to work on time his dedication is inspiring. It’s finally time that I give Cal Ripken Jr. his due.

And Ron, you done good naming your son after such a great man.

Erik Ritland is a journalist and musician from St. Paul, Minnesota. He is a contributor for Minnesota culture blog Curious North and writes frequent Daily Rambles. Ramblin’ On catalogs his writings on culture, music (including his own projects), sports, religion, and many other topics. You can reach him via email here.

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