Future Iron Man in Cooperstown
By Samantha Carr
Dick and Mary Lue Brown didn’t expect to see anyone famous when they entered the Museum on a summer morning in 1983. They had traveled from their home in Portland, Mich., to Cooperstown for the Hall of Fame Game between the Orioles and Cardinals with their four young sons.
But Dick Brown recognized a star in the Museum, walking around quietly by himself, just taking in the history.
“It was 9:30 in the morning and there was Cal Ripken, holding a bottle of Coke, cordial as all get out,” Brown said. “This was before he knew he would be a Hall of Famer.”
The 22-year-old Ripken was still fairly unknown, despite having won the American League Rookie of the Year Award the previous season. Brown asked if he could take a picture, and Ripken happily agreed.
Ripken singled in the game that weekend, although the Orioles lost, 4-1. The team went on to win the World Series, and Ripken won his first American League Most Valuable Player Award.
Brown told his wife, “If he ever gets into the Hall, I want to be there.”
So, return they did in 2007 with the 1983 photo and a record crowd to see Ripken and Tony Gwynn inducted into the Hall of Fame. Friends who own a bed-and-breakfast in town told the Browns to donate their photo to the Hall’s collection. They made a few copies for themselves, and the Hall of Fame gladly accepted the donation.
The Browns even had a chance to meet Ripken’s brother Billy that weekend. They wanted to give a copy of the photo to the family, and Billy Ripken took down their name and address. A few weeks later, the photo came back in the mail, autographed by Cal Ripken himself.
“On the photo was written, ‘Looks like we’ve come full circle.’ This is such a great memory, and Cal has been such a wonderful ambassador to baseball,” Brown said.
The Browns returned to Cooperstown on Monday, March 23, and got to peek at the file containing the Hall of Fame’s photos of Ripken.
“There are some wonderful photos in there, taken by professional photographers,” Brown said. “To see our photo among them, taken by an average Joe with an Instamatic camera, is pretty special.”
Samantha Carr is the media relations coordinator at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.