Father’s Day and baseball sure seem to go together, don’t they? Too bad we don’t have actual games to celebrate this weekend, but maybe a backyard game of Wiffle Ball will be better anyway.
Cal Ripken Jr. supplied one of my favorite baseball and father stories when I interviewed him in 2017. I asked Cal if there was one moment from that night in 1995 when he broke Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games played mark that jumps to his mind anytime he thinks of that night, but might not be something the rest of us saw or noticed.
“The moment that I had with my dad,” Ripken told me. “There were some people that thought my dad might not come back for that night.”
Cal Ripken Sr. had been with the Orioles organization for 36 years as a player, coach, and manager when he was fired after the 1992 season. Some hard feelings lingered.
“I’m pretty sure that I knew he was (coming), but I didn’t really talk to him about it,” Ripken Jr. said.
The scene is a famous one. The game became official in the fifth inning and the giant numbers on the warehouse wall changed to 2131, signaling a new unbreakable record had replaced the old unbreakable record. And the ovation for Ripken went on…and on…and on.
“(Dad) was sitting up in the skybox trying to stay away from the action a little bit,” Ripken Jr. said. “When I came out – I can’t remember how many different times I came out to say ‘thank you’ because the applause kept going on and it was in the middle of the game – I remember looking up to him and pointing at him. And there were about a thousand kind of words that went back and forth between us in our eyes.”
“I still get goosebumps going down my back when I start to think about that moment,” Ripken said.
We’ve probably all had a moment like that with our dads, even if it didn’t happen on a baseball field with the whole world watching.
Happy Father’s Day to all the great dads out there.