Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Cal Effect

I grew up as a baseball fan, in part because my Dad was a huge fan. And when I say a huge fan, I mean a huge fan. Unlike some people, Dad wasn't just a fan of The Phillies (who will forever be Dad's Team as far as I'm concerned) or their hometown team, he loved baseball. Many a night I came in late from seeing a band or a movie and Dad would be up watching the two worst teams in the American League play a game on the West Coast. He didn't care as long as they were playing baseball.

Another part of my childhood appreciation for the game came from the fact that the players stuck around. I grew up watching greats like Steve Carlton and Mike Schmidt, as well as guys I perceived as greats -- Larry Bowa, Bob Boone, Tug McGraw, Garry Maddox, Greg Luzinski -- largely because they were there year in and year out.

Eventually, I grew tired of baseball. The pace bored me and players began switching teams with alarming regularity. The game I knew as I kid was gone, yet I always followed it.

So when I started visiting Baltimore in the early part of 2001 I couldn't help but notice the city's starry eyed adoration of Cal Ripken as he made his farewell tour through the league. To me, an outsider, I'd always looked upon Ripken as nothing all that special, an above average player who chased an untouchable record to the detriment of his team.

Naturally, to speak these words in Charm City is akin to peeing on Poe's grave. But as Ripken heads to the Hall of Fame, a sure first ballot entry if ever there was one, I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who feels this way.

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