Al Blackburn didn't have an Orioles jersey. In fact, unlike most of the contestants, he didn't wear anything in the O's trademark orange hue.
However, he did bring his baseball glove. He has fielded a ball or two at shortstop. And he does have twinkling baby-blue eyes.
Oh, and one more thing.
"I think I have the Cal Ripken hairdo under control," the 81-year-old joked of his barely-there hairline. "I owe it all to my hairdresser."
Blackburn's physical attributes -- and his "spirit," as the judges pointed out -- won him top honors in yesterday's Cal Ripken Jr. Look-Alike Contest at the Charlestown retirement community in Catonsville.
With Baltimore's hometown hero just days from induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, Charlestown organizers decided to get in on the fun with a competition that allowed their residents to celebrate a sport they grew up watching and to relive their younger days.
Sam Porpora, 92, who owned a chain of drive-in restaurants and worked for an advertising firm before he retired, brought to the contest a poster-sized photograph of himself when he played for the B&O Railroad Post 81 American Legion baseball team in 1931.
Don Salvucci, 74, a retired newspaper printer, spouted some of his own baseball statistics onstage from his days playing sandlot ball in Philadelphia -- along with those of Ripken and Lou Gehrig, whose streak of consecutive games played was shattered by Ripken.
Blackburn, the contest winner, seized upon his moment in the spotlight to regale folks with the highlight of his baseball career: being chosen to pitch batting practice before Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute's game against the University of Rochester in the spring of 1949.
The competition featured 10 men in an auditorium decked out with posters of Ripken and paper plates decorated to resemble baseballs.
Although one woman signed up to participate, she did not show at game time.
"She must be in the dugout," joked Joe Foss, the former chief operating officer of the Baltimore Orioles and one of the judges of yesterday's contest.
Called to the stage one at a time, the contestants had 15 seconds to impress the crowd and the judges with their Ripken-like batting stances. During a second round, they had 15 seconds to imitate the two-time Gold Glove winner's fielding talents.
Henry Behringer took his time getting to the plate (a bundled-up orange Ripken jersey). He steered his motorized wheelchair to center stage, locked the brakes and planted each foot squarely on opposite sides of the makeshift plate before swinging away.
Jim Greeley, a frequent cyclist on the Charlestown campus and a retired physician, managed a little leap across stage while fielding an imaginary fly ball. That prompted Foss to ask whether the doctor played for Charlestown's softball team, adding, "You might have a new recruit for next year."
But as the audience laughed, Greeley shook his head.
"I might break something," he said on the way back to his seat.
Throughout the contest, master of ceremonies Mel Tansill offered a steady stream of play-by-play and color commentary.
When one contestant picked a spot nowhere near home plate for his turn at bat, Tansill cracked, "He's away from the plate. He's working that outside corner."
Hair does it for Cal look-alike
81-year-old credits Ripken-like do; judges note his 'spirit'
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