An Homage

If you got here by way of a link from my home page you know that I am a huge baseball fan. I believe it's the greatest game ever devised. Simply magical. And, since it has attracted many of our greatest writers, I'm gonna stop now before I make a fool of myself.

Wrigley Field (Chicago), I live in the Washington, D.C., area. We used to have a major league baseball team but in 1961 (I think it was), the owner received an astounding offer from the "Twin Cities" [Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota] and moved the Senators there (and changed the name of the team to the Twins). The Senators had been attrocious for most of their seventy-year history here. [There is an adage that (George) Washington was "First in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his country" which in the baseball context said that Washington was "First in war, first in peace and last in the American League."] Nonetheless we had our moments and they did win the World Series in [I think] 1929 largely behind the amazing pitching of Walter Johnson who is still counted as one of the greatest pitchers in the history of the game.

In 1962 (or thereabouts) a new team was formed, also called the Washington Senators, but they were even worse and their owner also packed up and moved out of town [to Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas, where they have been called the Rangers] around 1970 for a huge pile of money and we have had no major league team since then.

I loved the Senators. Growing up I used to go often to their games and I took my son to a few games of the latter team before they took off. It was he (who was only about five when Washington last had its own team so didn't have my life-long attachment) who kept yelling that we should make the fifty-plus mile drive to Baltimore, Maryland, to see their team, the Orioles, play until eventually my hatred of the former rivals (who were always better) waned and I slowly became an Orioles fan.

David and I saw Cal Ripken, Jr. play in his first games with the Orioles. He was a third baseman then, as he is now, although for most of his career he was the finest shortstop in the league. Over the past twenty-one seasons he has twice been designated the Most Valuable Player in the league, he has amassed over 3000 hits and over 400 home runs (a combination which has been achieved by precisely six other players in the hundred twenty-year history of the major leagues).

Monday evening, while waiting for the Orioles' game against the Toronto Blue Jays to begin, Mr. Ripken quietly told a sportswriter for The Washington Post that he would retire after this season ends, likely at Yankee Stadium in New York City on September 29. That game is now sold out as will be all of the others that he will play in in every other major league ballpark around North America. Since the Orioles are not a very good team this year, it is probable that well over half of the people in those seats will be there to get one last look at Cal Ripken, Jr.

This morning his photo appears on the front page and above the fold of three sections of The Washington Post. (Please remember that Washington does not have a baseball team.) Yesterday his photo topped the lead story on page 1 of the paper. Today it was also on page 1 but below the lead story.

The American League All-Star Team (selected by fans) will start Cal Ripken, Jr. at third base in early July when they play their annual game against National League. He was leading in the balloting for third basemen from its very beginning but now, with this announcement, just might end up with the most votes of any player. He has been a starting player for the American League team in the All-Star Game for each of the past fifteen years. [That's just my guess, but I'm certain that I'm close.]

On July 22 I am going to take my daughter and my oldest granddaughter to see the Orioles and Mr. Ripken play, just as my dad took me to see Joe DiMaggio play toward the end of his career. I've never forgotten that day but Lane may be just a little to young to remember this. Still, her mom will remind her and, perhaps, some day, when some ballplayer I've never heard of yet retires, Lane might write to friends exactly why her or his retirement means so much to her and might note that she also went with her mom and her granddad to see Cal Ripken, Jr. toward the end of his career. I sure hope so.

Maury Merkin
Yours is visit #4696.
Last modified: Mon Aug 23 17:54:59 EDT 2004
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