Cal Ripken:
Modern-Day Lindbergh or Media Myth?

We are family

The morning after Ripken's record-breaking game, one sportswriter noted that Henderson had sat out that night's game in Oakland, reportedly because he was upset about rumors that he was on the verge of being traded. Another writer made the kind of pluralistic juxtaposition that would make George Lipsitz proud (1991). He wrote of watching Mark Fuhrman hide behind the 5th Amendment in the O.J. Simpson trial, then turning the channel to see black saxophonist Branford Marsalis and white pianist Bruce Hornsby play the national anthem before Ripken took the field. "Unlike Fuhrman, he's brought honor to himself and to the institution he represents," the scribe opined. "At a time when baseball, and the nation, desperately need genuine heroes, Ripken fills the role flawlessly" (Laurence, 1995).

Any lingering fears about Ripken's teammates -- white or black -- resenting his notoriety were erased during the 22-minute ovation, when they all hugged or patted him. Many dabbed tears from their eyes and a couple of them shot up-close home videos of the moment, including Bobby Bonilla, the team's newest star. When the ovation would not subside, Bonilla, who is black, and Rafael Palmiero, who is Cuban-American, dragged Ripken out of the dugout for his victory lap. And after the game, the only person Ripken singled out for his success besides his parents and wife was former teammate Eddie Murray, who is black.

Murray "showed me how to play this game, day in and day out," Ripken said. "I thank him for his example and for his friendship. I was lucky to have him as my teammate for the years we were together, and I congratulate him on the great achievement of 3,000 hits" (Marantz & Attner, 1995).

Cal also went out of his way to thank the Orioles organization, even though it had fired his father and traded his brother, second baseman Billy Ripken, a few years ago. On this night, nothing would rupture the overwhelming feeling of unity in the air -- at least not if Cal Ripken Jr. could help it.

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Ripken ended the 1995 season with his consecutive games record at 2,153 and counting. On Sports Illustrated's Sportsman of the Year show, the announcer asked Ripken how he felt about being called baseball's savior.

"It's a flattering thing to say, but I hope I'm smart enough to realize that that's not a true statement," Ripken replied. "To me, the outpouring of love was for the game of baseball" (Bradshaw, 1995).

That may be true. But in September 1995, as in May 1927, people were not just cheering for one man or one remarkable endurance record. They stood to pay homage to the media's myth and symbol of a vanishing way of American life.

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