Blog Entry

The Day I Kicked Cal Ripken's Butt

Posted on: January 20, 2010 12:34 pm
Edited on: February 17, 2010 1:33 pm
 

In the early summer of 1965 I had my first real taste of defeat. Running home, crying like the eight year old I was, after just having been cut from the local Little League team tryouts. I was good enough to play the sandlot games with the other boys near my age, so why did that old man think I wasn't good enough for his team? This was also the first time I felt a desire to improve physically.

That next summer the tryouts were a little different. I had actually improved my draft status to the point the old man acted like he really needed me! Baseball, that day, was officially in my blood. I would go on to become an All Star in Little League and Babe Ruth, helped my high school team to consecutive State Tournaments, recieved a scholarship to college in baseball, and even played some American Legion ball. But it was that summer of 1966 that had such a profound influence on me.

My uncle, who was a cook in the Marines in the late 50's and early 60's, had befriended a man named John Powell while stationed in Maryland. They became big fishing buddies, and both enjoyed cooking. Even after moving back to Kentucky, he and Mr. Powell stayed in touch. Knowing how excited and proud I was to finally make the Little League team, and have a successful rookie season, my uncle surprised me with the promise of taking me to my first Major League game in the fall. And not to nearby Cincinnati, but as a bonus I would get to fly on a jetliner for the first time! Mr. Powell had provided tickets for us to see the Baltimore Orioles at Memorial Stadium.

Arriving at the stadium, and having never attended a major league game, I guess I really didn't give it a second thought when a team official directed us to an entrance other than the ones used by the rest of the crowd. When we finally got to the end of that hallway, there were grown men putting on uniforms in front of lockers. Then this huge red haired giant came over to us, shook my uncle's hand, patted him on the back, and turned to me and said "Hi, I'm Boog Powell. Let me introduce you to some of the guys." 

I got to meet Brooks Robinson (who would become my baseball hero), Frank Robinson, Paul Blair, Jim Palmer, and most of the team. It was just so surreal and I may have even been in shock, but the day couldn't last long enough. That is, until this little kid (must have been five or six years old) came up to me and kicked me in the shin! Well, adrenaline took over, and I wrestled the kid to the floor and pinned him down with my forearm across his throat. This, of course, was an embarrassing moment for my uncle as he pulled me off the kid. Needless to say, the remainder of that day wasn't as much fun, although we did see the O's win from our seats behind home plate. The remainder of that season was, however, a gift from above. The Orioles went on to defeat the Sandy Koufax led L.A. Dodgers in four straight games to sweep their first World Series title.

Our family has had a huge Christmas party each year since 1959. At that party in 1995 my uncle and cousins were reminiscing about everything when sports talk turned to baseball. We were marveling about how Cal Ripken, Jr. had just broken Lou Gehrig's consecutive game streak record the previous September, when my uncle asked me, "Do you remember the day I took you to Baltimore to see that game"? Well, duh, that had to be the single point in my life that everything changed, baseball wise. He said,"Do you remember that kid you got in a tussle with in the clubhouse. That was Cal Ripken, Jr.". I nearly had a panic attack. Cold chills from head to toe. Mouth agape. Eyes bugged wide open.

Cal Ripken, Sr. was in the Oriole organization for over 43 years and it was not uncommon for his children to be playing at the stadium. Other than Brooks Robinson, Cal Ripken, Jr. has been my all time favorite Oriole. An ambassador to the game, both as a major league role model, and a creator of a Little League system with his name on it(only he and Babe Ruth can claim that), and a truly great human being. It took 29 years before I finally found out, but, I kicked Cal Ripken's butt that day. 

If you're ever in Baltimore near the inner harbor, check out Boog's Barbeque on Eutaw Street down the right field line at Oriole Park at Camden Yards. It's my uncle's recipe. 


Category: MLB
Comments

Since: Feb 19, 2007
Posted on: February 1, 2010 2:49 pm
 

How I Became a True Oriole Fan

Tony, I agree about the HOF that year that Gwynn and Ripken went in together. That was one of the BEST HOF years ever.<br />Two of the classiest players to ever put on a uni. Hard working, clean, good ol American boys ya know.<br /><br />Camden will always be a fav place to see a ballgame. Boogs BBQ Tent, the open atmosphere.<br />Before I die, I have to see a game at Fenway. See The Monster in person.<br /><br />Been to Wrigley and the White Sox new park; Cincy- Old Crosby, Riverfront and the new ball park; Camden Yards.<br /><br />Ive started to lose touch with all the teams and players like I did when I was younger. I keep up with the Red Sox on a daily basis, even in the off season. I get out to Slugger Field a few times a year. Some local kids come back.... Chris Burke will be with the Reds this year; Saw Jeremy Sowers when he was playing AAA for the Cleveland farm club; Met Paul Byrd and bought his book at a Bible Study. Had him sign it and talked to him for a few minutes.<br /><br />Thanks for sharing




Since: Mar 2, 2007
Posted on: January 30, 2010 4:15 pm
 

How I Became a True Oriole Fan

Nice memory for you and Brian, Russ. Thanks for sharing that story. Cal was the consumate professional. A truly great ambassador to the game of baseball. I was very happy to see him share the podium at Cooperstown with another great role model, Tony Gwynn. So rare for guys these days to play for only one team throughout their career, and cement their legacy on a local level. There is only a couple guys like that left in today's game - Todd Helton of Colorado comes to mind first.

 I've been to Camden Yards many times (and old Memorial, too), and it's a great experience each trip. Sure wish I could have attended the record breaking game. I did get many goose bumps watching Cal run around the ball park high fiving the fans. One of my greatest sports memories ever - even more so than watching 46 yr. old Jack Nicklaus on the back nine at Augusta on that April spring Sunday in 1986. Win or lose, I'll forever be an Oriole fan.




Since: Dec 29, 2009
Posted on: January 29, 2010 12:26 am
 

How I Became a True Oriole Fan

Boog's barbecue... Im going to have to go there some time.  That is a good story.  I wish I had a story about how I became a Packers fan, but really it is just that I saw how good they were when they beat the Bears (my favorite team at the time) when I was like 8, and now, I am a Packers fan!  Bingo!  It is too bad the Orioles aren't doing well right now.  They need some starting pitching.  The hitting is looking good for the first time in a couple years.



Since: Feb 19, 2007
Posted on: January 27, 2010 8:53 pm
 

How I Became a True Oriole Fan

Tony

That was a great story. Amazing. I'll bet it did give you chills when you learned that kid was Cal Ripken.

And while I have been a Red Sox fan ever since the old Louisville Colonels were their AAA Farm team in the 60s, I loved baseball, including those Detroit teams that had Denny McClain, Mickey Lolich, Al Kaline et al.
Jim Palmer Dave McNally, BOOG and Brooks Robinson have always been some of my fav players from those great Oriole teams.

But I have a story to share as well, Tony, that involves your beloved Orioles and Cal Ripken Jr

When my oldest son was about 8, playing Little League baseball, he took an interest in baseball cards. Naturally Dad in fell place, and we started his collection. While at a Card show, we got to talking to a guy and he told my son Brian, that he should try and not only get a collection, but try and keep up with certain players...getting their rookie card and just keep adding to it. He talked about a guy with the Orioles, Cal Ripken Jr. While Brian kept trying to get Frank Thomas, we both got very interested in Ripken. Started following him and the O's. One Christmas I broke down and paid $35 for his Donruss Rookie Card.
The ultimate experience though came in 1995. I knew Cal was on the road to breaking the consecutive game record right after Labor Day. Actually on my Birthday Sept 8. It was February and tickets had just went on sale. I was able to find 3 tickets ( I had a younger son ) on the weekend of Labor Day. The Seattle Mariners and Ken Griffey Jr would be in town. I made reservations at the Marriot, where the Mariners were staying and booked a flight to Baltimore.
Our seats were down the left field line, about two sections from the foul pole. We had read about how Cal how stayed until 1:00 am the night before, signing autographs on the field. We walked into Camden Yards, walked past Boog Powells BBQ tent, looked up at the Warehouse where the numbers were that kept count of Ripken's quest for history. It was a maqical place...like we had never seen before. Camden will always have a special place in my heart
About the 7th inning, I told my son Brian to take his brother and maybe start lining up behind home plate, so they could get Cal's autograph after the game. As the 9th inning started he came back. The line was all the way back to right behind our seats! I could see the disappointment in his eyes. We were crushed.
But we stayed, and an usher let us get about 5 rows behind home plate. Cal came out and signed autographs again until almost 2:00am. It was neat to even get that close. To watch Cal take pictures, sign baseballs and bats.
Needless to say, we were all disappointed about not getting the autograph, but knew we got to witness a touch of baseball history as we watched them turn those numbers after the start of the 5th inning, making the game official. And amazed that Ripken stayed out there that long, signing autographs. He became a hero to my sons that night.
I still have the tickets to one of the games, a program and newspapers from that weekend, as well as the newspaper when he finally did break Gehrigs record to become baseball's Iron Man.

So Tony, there's my baseball story. Not quite as fascinating as yours, but still pretty cool



Since: Mar 10, 2008
Posted on: January 25, 2010 10:32 am
 

How I Became a True Oriole Fan

I am sitting down in a few minutes with a friend who has the distinction of being one of two MLB umpires to eject Cal Jr. from a game. Drew Coble, now retired, sent him to the showers for arguing over strikes (after warning him, of course).

A couple of years ago, the Ripken Experience, a baseball training complex, opened in Myrtle Beach. When I heard that Cal Jr. would attend the grand opening, I called Drew. Watching them talk was a treat, the rancor of the incident long forgotten but the bond of America's game still knitting them together.



Since: Jun 15, 2009
Posted on: January 25, 2010 9:20 am
 

How I Became a True Oriole Fan

1965 was the year I became an Oriole fan.  I loved that team and especially Boog Powell.  Not many O's fans from Kentucky, I was born and raised in Louisville.  Thank you so much for sharing your story.




Since: Sep 6, 2006
Posted on: January 24, 2010 1:52 pm
 

How I Became a True Oriole Fan

I grew up in Baltimore around the same time and became a loyal Oriole fan.  Back then, the Os were built to compete and were a class organization; they were one of the top teams in the game.  F. Robby, Boog, Palmer, Cuellar, McNally, Dave Johnson, Paul Blair, Earl Weaver, et. al. But the most beloved Oriole was the incomperable B. Robby.  Brooks Robinson played third base, as Pete Rose once said, "like he came down from a higher league", and he was always such a class individual.  I found out later in life that I played against Cal Ripken's Aberdeen squad in the little league all-star games.  Who knew?  My uncle was in the police force with responsibility for security for the Colts.  When visiting his house I was able to meet players like Artie Donovan, Ordell Braase, Bill Pellington, John Mackey and Johnny Unitas.  Unitas once gave me a football and signed it "Merry Christmas Phil, Johnny Unitas".  My friends and I used that football for neightborhood pick up games.  There's no trace of Johnny U's signature, and it doesn't hold air, but 40 years later, I still can't bring myself to throwing it away because of the fact it was a Christmas present from Johnny U.  The 60s/70s were a great time to be a kid and growing up in Baltimore.



Since: Mar 2, 2007
Posted on: January 24, 2010 11:48 am
 

How I Became a True Oriole Fan

Not really sure why it wasn't discussed before that 1995 Christmas party. My uncle was a member of the Secret Service for many years, and we really didn't see each other much until the holidays. He spent his last several years with the Service living in Marietta, Ga. and would never talk of his work. After his retirement, he finally told us he was assigned to former President Carter for those years. Guess he always had more on his mind than baseball.

Anyway, glad you all enjoyed the story. I never was sure what prompted Cal to kick me. Maybe he was just jealous of the attention I was recieving from the team. Wink



Since: Dec 3, 2006
Posted on: January 24, 2010 1:42 am
 

How I Became a True Oriole Fan

Great story.  Any funny reason behind your uncle not telling you that was Cal Jr. for so many years?



Since: Jan 18, 2008
Posted on: January 23, 2010 2:14 pm
 

How I Became a True Oriole Fan

Wow, that was a fantastic story!  It is these types of experiences that make us regular fans appreciate sports so much.  Sadly, there are no such role models on today's Baltimore Orioles, and barely few role models like Boog Powell or Cal Ripken, Jr. in baseball or any other professional sport.  Stories like yours are rare gems.


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