Ripken artifacts added to Museum timeline
By John Odell
Our second floor timeline exhibition at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum uses baseball’s dynasties to tell the history of the game. On Wednesday, we added two items to the 1960s-1980s Orioles case, both related to one of baseball’s best-known players, Cal Ripken.
The first artifact is alternate orange jersey worn by Ripken in 1989, a year famous to Bird fans for the “Why Not?” Orioles. That year, Ripken was named to his seventh of 19 All-Star teams and won his fifth of eight Silver Slugger honors as the O’s carried an unlikely, exciting run for the division crown into the final games of the season. Hall of Famer Frank Robinson also won Manager of the Year honors in 1989 for his handling of the young squad, which the year before had opened the season with 21 consecutive losses.
The second item is a baseball with the following inscription:
Happy Birthday Dwight
Presidents should be tossing
1st balls, not catching them
Cal Ripken, Jr.
Batting eighth in the lineup and playing third base, Cal Ripken knocked this ball foul, where it was caught by the president of the Orioles booster club, who was attending the game on his birthday. After the game, he had Cal inscribe it.
Of course, it was only years later that the significance of the game became clear: May 30, 1982 was the first game of Ripken’s famed consecutive games played streak. While everyone in baseball was aware of the streak once it became news, it is only by the greatest of luck that someone managed to preserve this memento from the start of the famed record. On loan to the Hall from Ripken Baseball, Inc., the ball is being displayed with the inscription turned down, to minimize the damaging effect that light has on the ink.
John Odell is the curator of history and research at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum.