Thoughts on Ripken

Richie Bancells, Orioles head athletic trainer: "Some of my fondest memories... came at the unfortunate time when he was having his back problems. We would start his rehab program at 8:30 a.m. at his house. This was during the middle of winter. He had me outline the program on grease boards in his workout room. He had to have a plan, as always. ... I doubt that in my career I will have another ballplayer with that kind of intensity and dedication to his profession. During that time he had the bad back, he was telling me he was going to get me in shape!"

Fred Tyler, Orioles visiting clubhouse manager: "Cal's career is noted for its consistency, and so, too, is his signature. He meticulously dotted the 'i' in Ripken and period after 'Jr.' ... Cal chose the right pen for the type of material and made sure to flatten each jersey's signing surface. ...Cal made sure that each signature was as good as the last. There was no room for shortcuts in his game or his autograph."

Chris Berman, ESPN broadcaster, who did play-by-play for the 2,131 game: "When Cal arrived in the clubhouse before the game, we were set up to meet him to conduct a brief interview. I looked at him with a straight face and said, 'Cal you think you might get in tonight?' Cal laughed, and then we had a great interview for the telecast. Next time I saw him, he thanked me for, at least for 30 seconds, letting him laugh and relax on that unbelievable night."

Mike Flanagan, Orioles executive vice president: "When Cal first came up to the big leagues in '82, he didn't play every day. And the days that he didn't play, he would drive everyone in the dugout crazy asking hundreds of questions - 'Why are we playing him this way?' 'Why are we pitching him that way?' - one after another. He had this boundless energy. He'd wrestle his teammates in the dugout, and finally we turned to Earl [Weaver] and said, 'Please, please, please put him in the lineup.'"

Ernie Tyler, Orioles field attendant: "After Cal got drafted [in 1978], he was assigned to Bluefield. Cal Sr.was third base coach with the big league team, and I'd dress at a locker right next to his. After every game, I remember how Senior would sit at his locker and wait until the Bluefield game was done, then call the manager down there to see how Cal had done that night. He never called Cal to ask. He'd always call the manager."

Buster Olney, ESPN baseball reporter and former Orioles beat writer for The Sun: "Cal collapsed into a batting slump immediately after he broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive-game record, hardly a surprise given the extraordinary energy that he had expended on those remarkable days and the days leading up to them. His batting average slid downward in mid-September -- not that anyone really cared.

"They had a day game in Detroit, and he struggled at the plate again. The fans filed out, and the writers went into the shoebox clubhouse at old Tiger Stadium and talked to Cal and the other Orioles, and returned to the press box to write our stories.

"About an hour after the game ended, a lone figure stepped out of the dugout and walked onto an otherwise empty field. It was Cal, and he had a batting tee and a bucket of baseballs. He set the tee on home plate, stood in the right-handed batter's box, set the first of perhaps 50 balls from the bucket on the tee -- and proceeded to spray balls all over Tiger Stadium, one by one. Cal was in a slump, he didn't like it, and this was his way of finding a solution.

"He emptied the bucket, then walked around the field retrieving all the balls himself; there was a nation of baseball fans and some clubhouse kids who would have done this for him, but Cal did it -- his penance, it seemed, for his slump. Then he returned to home plate, and started over, hitting balls into the twilight."

Steve Phillips, ESPN commentator and former New York Mets general manager: "More than any other player in its history, Cal Ripken understands what makes baseball a great game. It's not the great players, but the great fans.

"Cal respected the game. More importantly, he respected the people who paid his salary -- the fans."