Why I love...
Former Oriole and Hall-of-Fame
baseball player Cal Ripken Jr.
is king of the city | BY PETE CALDERA
When it’s unveiled this summer at the National
Baseball Hall of Fame, the plaque honoring
Cal Ripken Jr. will chronicle his significant
achievements for all time. Up among the row
houses on Federal Hill and down around the pubs at Fells Point,
these cold facts melt into warm memory. Between the lines that
celebrate Ripken’s wondrous record of 2,632 consecutive games
played, his 19 trips to the All-Star Game, 3,184 hits and 431 home
runs, there is another remarkable statistic—it all happened to a
son of Baltimore.
In the hardscrabble harbor town where a generation of kids
mimicked Brooks Robinson and John Unitas, Ripken and Baltimore grew up together and stayed together through the era of
expansion and free agency.
“I grew up just outside of Baltimore and the Orioles
were my favorite team,” Ripken says, “and Brooks was
my favorite player. My dad (Cal Ripken Sr.) worked in
the organization for nearly four decades.
“Against all odds I was drafted by the Orioles in the
second round (in 1978) and against even greater odds I
made it to the big leagues and played for my hometown
team for 21 seasons.”
The timeline of the city’s ascension is entwined with
Ripken’s career. Baltimore’s world-famous National
Aquarium opened in 1981, the same year that he made
his major league debut. The Orioles also were on the
rise, and two years later, Ripken—then a 22-year-old
shortstop—caught the final out of the World Series.
“As a kid I thought that this was how it would be
every year,” he says. “It was a very exciting time in the
Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened in 1992, the
centerpiece of the Inner Harbor’s revitalization—
arriving 12 years after the glass-enclosed Harborplace
Pavilion infused the area with shops and restaurants and
promise. “There are a few places that we really love,”
Ripken says. “The Oregon Grille restaurant is a favorite
place of (my wife) Kelly and I ... in downtown Baltimore
we really like Ruth’s Chris Steak House.”
After the steamed crabs at Obrycki’s or the veal
francese at Sabatino’s in Little Italy, the sports-minded
can head back to the Inner Harbor and follow the baseballs (painted into the sidewalk near Camden Yards)
to the Babe Ruth Museum or the newly opened Sports
Legends Museum at historic Camden Station.
These days, Ripken is making new baseball
memories with part ownership in the Class A Aberdeen IronBirds and co-running the Cal Ripken Sr.
Foundation, which honors his father’s legacy while
providing baseball and softball programs for underprivileged children.
Since chasing Lou Gehrig’s famous streak of 2,130
consecutive games, Ripken has pursued a cure for amyo-trophic lateral sclerosis—the disease that took Gehrig’s
life. “The Streak” was something purely blue-collar;
Ripken showed up for work every day, through illness
and injury, and performed at his best.
“I put a great value on staying in Baltimore throughout my career and having my kids grow up here,” he says.
“It could not have worked out better.”
The Oregon Grille Obrycki’s The Babe Ruth
1201 Shawan Rd., Hunt Valley 1727 E. Pratt St. • 410-732-6399 Birthplace and Museum
410-771-0505 A downtown tradition since 1944, 216 Emory St. • 410-727-1539
Just north of downtown, in “the heart Obrycki’s modest exterior houses a fan- In the row house where Babe Ruth was
of Maryland’s scenic horse country,” the tastic menu featuring its famous back-fin born in 1895, just a short walk from
Oregon Grille serves up “creative, classic crab cakes and steamed hard-shell crabs Oriole Park at Camden Yards, a museum
American cuisine” in a renovated 19th- sprinkled with Old Bay seasoning. You holds baseball treasures from the
century stone farmhouse. Gentlemen get a wooden mallet to open the crabs, Bambino’s career.
are required to wear jackets after 5 p.m. which also can be ordered by mail.
The National Aquarium
501 E. Pratt St. • 410-576-3800
Home to 660 species of animals and
roughly 16,500 specimens, the National
Aquarium at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor
is one of the world’s best, with a
unique tropical rain forest exhibit and
an ever-changing calendar of events