Friday, July 27, 2007

The Iron Man Celebrated, Honored and Hailed in Cooperstown Send-Off

Here's an article I wrote for the DC Sports Box about Cal Ripken and his send-off, hope you enjoy..


Although the Washington D.C. Metropolitan area is pretty much awash with the red, white and blue of the Nationals, lest we forget many in the area for about four decades rooted, cheered and followed the Baltimore Orioles.

Our neighbors to the north have not had a lot to cheer about for the past decade, as the Orioles have had nine straight losing seasons, a dramatic decline attendance, and fan dissatisfaction towards owner Peter Angelos.

However, on Tuesday night before a match-up with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, fans got a chance to relive the glory days of the past as the Orioles honored Cal Ripken, Jr. in a “send-off to Cooperstown” celebration.

A crowd about 43,000 strong celebrated a universally-respected man who was not only a great baseball player, but also a part of Maryland heritage.

The crowd last night was boisterous, decked in black and orange, and you saw the number "8" abound on jerseys, shirts and whatever else you could find.

With an elaborate display setup of a large inflatable jersey of Ripken’s number in center field, the number “2632” posted on the warehouse to commemorate the number of consecutive games that he played, along with a podium and seating in the infield, Tuesday was all about Cal.

Although the start time of the game was set back more than half-an-hour, dignitaries such as Baltimore mayor, Sheila Dixon; fellow Hall of Famers and former Orioles Eddie Murray, Brooks Robinson, and Earl Weaver were on hand to support and honor Cal Ripken.

Fans were shown a continuous loop of footage of the future Hall of Famer on the video screen in centerfield; therefore, as he was announced, Cal sat in a pristine Chevrolet Corvette as it drove along the warning track, waved to the crowd and tossed a few baseballs to a few lucky fans.

Like a scene out of a movie, fans watched and stood with amazement as they took photos, video and tried to get as close as they could to the field.

Cal addressed the crowd and spoke for about ten minutes with thoughts of his career, his upcoming induction to the Hall of Fame, and his work with kids via Ripken Baseball.

Afterwards, he threw out the first pitch of the ballgame to former teammate, Eddie Murray.

In addition, Orioles’ Chief Operating Officer Andy MacPhail presented a check for one million dollars to Cal Ripken, Jr. to help out the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, a non-profit foundation that provides baseball and softball programs to underprivileged children named in honor of his father.

In light of the Orioles being a second division team at the moment, Tuesday was an example of what could be -- or in better terms, what should be for the team north of Washington D.C.

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