Calvin Edwin Ripken Jr. is celebrating his 50th birthday today. Born in Havre de Grace, Maryland, just a short 1 hour trip up 95 from his future team the Baltimore Orioles, Ripken was raised on the baseball diamond. His father, Cal Sr., played, scouted and managed in the Baltimore Orioles organization. By the time Cal Jr. broke into the big leagues with the Orioles in 1981, Cal Sr. was the Manager of the team. While Ripken was not in the mold of the prototypical shortstop of the time, by combining great defense and homerun hitting power, he would break his way into the starting lineup and become the new breed of shortstop in the Majors.
On April 5th, 1982, Cal Ripken Jr. started his first full season as an Oriole against the Kansas City Royals, going 3-5 with a homerun in his first at-bat of the season. From there, Ripken would go on to put together one of the greatest resumes in Major League Baseball history. Over the course of his 20 seasons in the league, Ripken would win the Rookie of the Year Award, a World Series Championship, 8 Silver Slugger Awards, 2 Gold Glove Awards, 2 American League MVP Awards and be elected to 19 consecutive All-Star games from 1983 to 2001. He also led the league in defensive assists 7 times and is 3rd on the All-time Assists list.
Ripken’s most notable moment came back on September 6th, 1995, when he broke the all time record for most consecutive games played (solidifying his nickname as “Iron Man” once and for all) set by Lou Gehrig back in 1939. His 2,131 consecutive game was prolonged slightly in the bottom of the fifth inning, when a 22 minute standing ovation and a lap around the field on the back of a car postponed the Orioles from batting their turn. He would end the game 2-4 with a homerun and the Orioles beat the California Angels 4-2. That game is still one of the most viewed games in Major League Baseball history. Ripken would finish his consecutive games streak roughly 3 years later at 2,632. Upon retiring in 2001, Ripken’s #8 jersey would be retired by the Orioles. In 2007, Ripken was voted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility with an overwhelming 98.53% of the vote. Happy Birthday Cal !