You should have seen the look on the face of the community relations manager. She was staring at me and giving me a hard look. That stare said don’t talk with him.
Nonsense, it’s Cal Ripken Sr. We are on an Orioles Caravan around 1986. And heck, as a sales representative along for the ride, I wasn’t going to pass on the opportunity. I’m sitting in the back seat of Cal Sr.’s car and asked him some questions about our favorite team.
It got where the community relations manager was getting angry. It wasn’t the conversation but Cal Sr., felt he needed to talk to me person. Here he is driving the car but he turned around and looked right at me while answering the questions. No big deal of course unless you like to see the driver keep his eyes on the road.
Obviously Cal Sr., did not kill anyone in the car that night.
I think in five years with the club I met most everyone in the Ripken family. Cal. Jr. and brother Billy both made treks to the Orioles Store in DC. Naturally, Cal’s trip made the fans come out in droves. Billy’s visit didn’t attract the same attention but what a fun kid. You could tell he was blessed with a good personality so it’s nice to see him on MLB channel.
Now we might remember Cal. Sr’s managerial run in Baltimore. But do we recall he managed just one game in 1985? It came exactly between the end of Joe Altobelli’s reign and the comeback of Earl Weaver. It was June 13 at home. The visiting Brewers hit Scott McGregor hard in the first inning as Cecil Cooper drilled a two-run homer.
But that was the end of the stress for manager Ripken. His oldest son (Cal) drove in a pair of runs with two doubles in the 8-3 win.
Ripken returned to his manager’s job in 1987. He became the first big league manager to have two sons playing for him. Of course Cal Jr., playing in every game and hit 27 homers. Brother Billy managed to hit .308 in 58 games. And after winning five of the first six games, the Birds got off to a good start. In one stretch, Baltimore won 11 of 12 games to pull into third place just four games out.
And then June hit and Ripken’s club fell apart. Just five wins in 29 outings spelled doom. On June 30, the Orioles were 17 games out. Even an 11-game winning streak in July couldn’t save Baltimore from a 95-loss season.
No matter, 1988 promised to be better. It didn’t start out well. Ripken’s club lost 12-0 on opening day. On Monday, April 11, the slumping Orioles nursed a five-game losing streak into a game with the Indians. And when Rich Schu cracked a homer off Cleveland lefty Greg Swindell, it knotted this game up 2-2 in the top of the fifth.
The Orioles would lose their sixth straight game and manager Ripken was fired after the game. After six stinking games? They fired the manager who had two kids on the team. History tell us the great Frank Robinson took over the helm for game seven and his leadership provided 15 more consecutive losses.
It was bizarre. In addition to the 21-game losing streak, the Orioles would post the worst record in the Major Leagues that season. Actually, that 54-107 mark was just a half of game better than the Atlanta Braves.
Cal, Sr. only made it to 63-years-old. He died on March 25, 1999. By all accounts he was a heck of a baseball coach and kind of a tough luck manager.