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Cal Ripken Jr. - All In The Family

coaching games mother viola

Ripken began "playing games" early in life. His father, for whom Ripken was named, preceded his son onto the Orioles, beginning as a minor-league catcher in 1957. For decades thereafter, Cal Sr. would be a figurehead in the organization as player, coach, and manager of farm teams in Wisconsin, South Dakota, and North Carolina, and the Orioles proper in Baltimore. Calvin Edward Ripken, Jr. was born in Havre de Grace, Maryland, on August 24, 1960. While the Ripkens made their home in Aberdeen, Maryland, their house was often empty as the family—including two brothers and a sister—traveled with their mother to wherever Cal Sr. was coaching or managing that summer. But even with the elder Ripken based in

Cal Ripken, Jr.

Baltimore, the family was still an often-divided one: "Baseball took my dad away from me," Cal Jr. told Wiley. "He left at one o'clock every day on the days he was at home, and he was gone completely half the time, on the road. I learned very early that if I wanted to see my dad at all, I would have to go to the ballpark with him."

Baseball became a centerpiece in the boy's life. Ironically, the largest influence in that area was Cal's mother, Viola Ripken. With Cal Sr. away so often, it was Viola who supplied the coaching, the cheers, and the consolation while her son learned his game. Even the elder Ripken was quick to acknowledge his wife's contribution: "I didn't get to see many of [Cal's] games in Little League," he remarked in a People article. "So [his mother] taught him to hit. She was a pretty good hitter herself, and I'm not talking about fanning the kids' behinds."

Entering his teens, Ripken turned his attention toward the minor leagues where his father was coaching. He became a fixture in Asheville, North Carolina, studying the games and peppering Cal Sr. with questions about pitching and hitting strategy. "I always wanted to know why he did something," Ripken was quoted by Sports Illustrated. "By the time I was ready to play, I knew the proper way to do things." Ripken made his mark as a student-athlete, playing in the Mickey Mantle World Series in 1977 and winning the Harford County batting title with a .492 average in his senior year.

Cal Ripken Jr. - The Road To Baltimore [next]

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