Cal Ripken Jr. will go down in history as one of the greatest baseball players of all time. Not because he had the most World Series wins but because of his longevity. Several generations of baseball fans got to witness Ripken Jr. in his prime, which pretty much lasted two decades. After starting his career with the Baltimore Orioles in the 1980s, Ripken Jr. finally gave an emotional goodbye to his adoring fans in 2001.
One great career
Before Ripken Jr. was due an emotional goodbye, he needed an outstanding career to earn it. Ripken joined the league in 1981 with his hometown team, the Baltimore Orioles. With his performances meaning more to him than other players in the league, Ripken didn’t waste any time in impressing his new fans. In 1982 Ripken was voted the Rookie of the Year in the American League, but this was just the beginning.
Ripken made his first All-Star appearance in 1983, and by the time he retired, he would make 19 appearances at this special game over the years. The shortstop would have a stand out year in 1983, winning the American League MVP and the Silver Slugger that season. Orioles fans soon began to realize they had a special player on their roster.
Winning the World Series
There was no way Cal Ripken Jr. knew at the beginning of his career that he would stick around for 21 seasons, so he didn’t waste any time finding success. In just his third season Ripken Jr. was able to win the World Series. Amazingly, for someone so talented, this would be the only World Series Ripken Jr. would win. He went another 18 seasons without winning it again, but his records along the way meant Ripken had plenty to look back on and be proud of.
So many outstanding moments
It’s hard to pin down just one moment in Ripken Jr.’s baseball career that made him so special. Instead, it’s better to look at his very long list of accomplishments, which includes breaking Lou Gehrig’s long-standing consecutive games streak. Ripken broke the streak in 1995 and, in total, played in 2,632 games.
Because Ripken was always available, he was nicknamed the ‘Iron Man,’ and if you were going to watch the Orioles, you knew you were going to watch Ripken. The shortstop also made the most consecutive All-Star starts with 17, has eight Silver Slugger awards, and two American League MVP wins.
Ripken Jr. wasn’t due to have his final game in front of the Orioles fans, but a late fixture change meant the game was played at Camden Yards. The legendary slugger had announced in June that he would be making the 2001 season his final one as retirement loomed. His final performance wasn’t much to write home about, but what followed was truly special.
Ripken Jr. told the fans it was his “dream” to play in front of them and then rode in a red sports car around the infield waving to fans. Those fans refused to leave without one last glimpse of their hero, and the stadium stayed packed long into the evening.
Six years later, Ripken had another accomplishment by becoming the third-most unanimous Hall of Fame member in history, with 98.53% of the vote.