Born on August 24, 1960, in Havre de Grace, Maryland, Cal Ripken Jr. began his storied 21-year Major League Baseball career in 1981. The "Iron Man" set a record by playing in 2,632 consecutive games from 1982 to 1998, earning two MVP Awards and a World Series championship along the way. Inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007, he oversees a family baseball business and foundation.
Calvin Edwin Ripken Jr. was born on August 24, 1960, in Havre de Grace, Maryland. Dad Cal Sr. soon ended his professional baseball playing career to become a minor league manager, and his wife, Violet, and four children would join him for summertime stints in such cities as Aberdeen, South Dakota, and Elmira, New York.
Having been exposed to baseball at an early age, Ripken became a star shortstop and pitcher at Aberdeen High School. After striking out 17 batters to pitch Aberdeen to the Maryland state championship in 1978, he was selected in the second round of Major League Baseball's amateur draft by the Baltimore Orioles.
Given his first crack at the Major Leagues toward the end of the 1981 season, Ripken batted just .128 in 23 games for the Orioles. But he quickly adjusted to the game's highest level the next season, blasting 28 home runs with 93 RBIs to win the American League Rookie of the Year Award. That year, he also quietly began a consecutive-game streak that would reach monumental proportions.
Ripken enjoyed an outstanding all-around campaign in 1983, batting .318 with 27 home runs and league-leading totals in runs (121), hits (211) and doubles (47). He was named the AL Most Valuable Player, and the Orioles went on to win the World Series over the Philadelphia Phillies.
At 6'4" and more than 200 pounds, Ripken was much bigger than the typical shortstop, but he proved an adept fielder and eventually won two Gold Glove Awards. Furthermore, he delivered more production than his shortstop peers by slamming 20 to 30 home runs on an annual basis. His offensive capabilities were especially magnified during the 1991 season, when he batted .323 with 34 home runs and 114 RBIs to win his second MVP Award.
As Ripken continued to play every day, season after season, attention turned to the record streak of 2,130 consecutive games played by Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig. Ripken surpassed that number on September 6, 1995, even blasting a home run to commemorate the day. Once the game became official, Ripken took a lap around the field as the Baltimore fans gave him an extended standing ovation.
The streak finally ended at an amazing 2,632 games in 1998, and the once-indestructible "Iron Man" began missing games to injuries as he neared his 40th birthday. Still, there was time for more memorable moments, such as when he collected career hit No. 3,000 early in the 2000 season. Playing in his 19th and final All-Star Game in 2001, he crushed a third-inning home run to win the All-Star Game MVP Award.
Ripken called it quits on his 21-year career at the end of 2001. Along with his amazing streak, he clubbed an impressive 431 home runs, including a record 345 as a shortstop. He also ranked among the all-time leaders with 3,001 games played, 3,184 hits and 603 doubles. When his time came for enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007, he was named on 98.5 percent of the ballots cast, the third-highest percentage in history.
Since retiring from the sport, Ripken has devoted his time to business endeavors and philanthropic work. He has written several books, including The Ripken Way: A Manual for Baseball and Life (1999) and Parenting Young Athletes the Ripken Way: Ensuring the Best Experience for Your Kids in Any Sport (2006). He has also co-authored a series of young adult books with sportswriter Kevin Cowherd.
Ripken serves as chairman and CEO of Ripken Baseball, which owns multiple minor league baseball teams and runs youth camps and clinics, among other ventures. His brother Bill, also a former MLB player, is co-chairman and executive vice president of the company.
The Ripken brothers played together professionally for a few years and were even managed by their father for a season. They later established the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation in his honor. The organization runs baseball and softball programs for underprivileged children.
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