Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Iron Man

They played the old Black Sabbath song Iron Man last night at Lake Olmstead Stadium, the home of the Augusta GreenJackets, the low Class A affiliate of the San Francisco Giants.

That was appropriate, since Cal Ripken, Jr. was there to throw out the first pitch. Ripken is the head of Ripken Baseball, which owns the GreenJackets franchise as well as the Aberdeen (MD) IronBirds. I stood no more than twelve feet from him as he was signing autographs for the kids in attendance.

Ripken is known as the Iron Man of major league baseball because he broke one of those “unbreakable” records, Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played. Gehrig played in 2,130 consecutive games between June 1, 1925 and May 2, 1939. That record was broken by Ripken on September 6, 1995. His timing was fortuitous. Many people give Ripken credit for almost single-handedly overcoming the bad feelings that existed among fans over the labor stoppage that had ended the 1994 season and that had caused the cancellation of the postseason.

Cal Ripken, who played his entire career with the Baltimore Orioles, will enter the Baseball Hall of Fame on July 29 after being elected, along with the great San Diego Padres outfielder Tony Gwynn, on the first ballot. Ripken truly had a great career. He was the 1982 American League Rookie of the Year. He was the American League’s Most Valuable Player in 1983 and 1991. He was a nineteen-time All-Star, a two-time Golden Glove winner, and an eight-time Silver Slugger winner. He played on a World Series championship team in 1983. He finished his career with a lifetime batting average of .276, 431 home runs, and 1,695 RBI.

Those are truly remarkable statistics, but Ripken will always be remembered for his consecutive games played streak that eventually extended from May 30, 1982 - September 20, 1998 and ended at an “unbreakable” 2,632.

It was Woody Allen who said, “80% of success is showing up.” Cal Ripken, Jr., the Iron Man of baseball, certainly proved that. He provided a model for all of us, no matter what our calling and no matter what our career. We should be dedicated. We should be faithful. We should be committed.

We should show up. When we do, amazing things just might happen.

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