“It’s not whether you win or lose,” the saying goes. “It’s how you play the game.” On the other hand, it’s said, “Winning isn’t everything – it’s the only thing.” So the ideal sportsman is one who plays the game with class and respect, and yet still wins. In other words, Cal Ripken.
In a storybook scenario, Cal got to play beside his brother while his father was the coach. But not for the Kenosha Tire Co. Tiny Treads – for the major league Baltimore Orioles. Even then, Cal was a rare commodity in baseball. He was an athlete with the agility to play shortstop and the strength to hit for power.
Cal made an instant splash in the sport, winning the American League Rookie of the Year honor in 1982. He was named to the American League All-Star team 19 times. He was twice named the All-Star game MVP and the American League MVP. He has a World Series ring. And he was a first-ballot inductee into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Of course, the feat everyone associates with Cal is the streak for playing the most consecutive games. Lou Gherig’s record of 2,130 stood for 56 years and was considered unbreakable. Not only did Cal break it, but he hit a home run in the record-tying game and in the record-breaking game. It was named “Most Memorable Moment” in baseball history. He finally took a game off after playing 2,632 straight games. That record will never be broken.
His streak symbolized what kind of a man he is. Show up every day. Care about your job. Do your very best. Give back to the community. The stench of steroids has corrupted baseball in the public eye, and it’s going to take a lot of Cal Ripken-style professionalism before it can regain its lost place in America’s heart.