Cal Ripken Jr.

He is one of the most popular and celebrated athletes of his time. Cal Ripken Jr. is on his way to the Baseball Hall of Fame, but also the Energizer Hall of Fame. The Iron Man talks about the Energizer Keep Going Hall of Fame campaign, the consecutive game streaks affect on baseball, all the performance enhancing accusations surrounding the sport, his future in baseball, and so much more in a revealing interview from a baseball legend.

Listen to the Cal Ripken Jr. interview:

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Chris Yandek: How are you?

Cal Ripken Jr.: “Thanks for having me. I am doing great. Thanks for having me. One hall of fame wasn’t enough.”

CY: You are the spokesperson for the Energizer Keep Going Hall of Fame which is an award for people who go above and beyond. Any person can enter anyone else and get more information at www.energizerkeepgoinghalloffame.com. Tell me about the campaign and what it’s like to work with Energizer on a project that acknowledging everyday people.

CR: “When they came to me with this concept of creating the Hall of Fame to bring tribute to everyday people that pursue their lives the way the Energizer Bunny would. I mean I was always compared to the Energizer Bunny in my consecutive game streak because every day I showed up and went to work and they said he keeps going and going and going, but a lot of people do that. People have sent me stories all the time when I played of their attendance record in school or haven’t missed a day of work in 30 some years. Those are the kind of people that Energizer wants to bring tribute to.

If you know someone like that and you want to nominate them because it’s a really cool way to honor someone you know and nominate them, you can go to www.energizer.com/halloffame and all the rules are right there and how you nominate or you can nominate yourself. Last year we had our first induction and they inducted me in a honorary way, but they also inducted John O’Leary.

John O’Leary had a really interesting story. He was burned throughout his whole body when he was very young and that didn’t keep him back, it didn’t stop him from doing anything. He’s gone on to live a normal life and he’s done some really great things. He was a very good speaker and inspirational story. Those are the kind of stories that really excite me. It’s a natural fit and I think it’s a really great thing Energizer is doing.”

CY: The submission period ends March 26, 2007. Which kind of entrants is Energizer looking for and what keeps you going in life after retiring from baseball?

CR: “Any story, it doesn’t have to be something super extraordinary. It can be someone that actually exemplifies the traits of the Energizer Bunny, perseverance, never say die attitude, no challenge is too great, just keep going each and every day. I think if we all think about it, there is somebody in our lives that we could call the Energizer Bunny and we admire for those qualities. Really it’s just a matter of putting them down in words and telling us about them and whatever story. It gets down to ten finalists and then goes back to a vote online. Those kinds of stories, any kind of story we are looking for, any and all, and the more the better.

What keeps me going? I guess it’s just a desire to keep trying to contribute and do things in life. I had a marvelous baseball career and after my baseball career, there is an abundance of opportunity out there. I am driven by what you are able to accomplish and how you are able to help some people. I go about it each and every day, sometimes I think I say yes too much and I am too busy in my life. In the end of the day, I feel pretty good about the contributions you can make.”

CY: Where were you and what did you feel when you were told you were being selected to the Baseball Hall of Fame and have you thought about your speech yet?

CR: “I have started thinking about my speech, but I was told to be close to a phone on a particular day, and I guess it was January 9th this year. I sat there and stared at the phone for a good 20-30 minutes and hoping it would ring. When I got the call from Jack O’Connell and he said, ‘Congratulations, you’ve made it to the Hall of Fame.’ There was a great sense of accomplishment and great sense of fulfillment that came over me, and it was one of those moments where it actually became real. A lot of people have been telling me that I was going to be in the Hall of Fame and those are nice words and I try not to think about it, but when the call came, it made it real. It was a pretty darned good feeling.”

CY: How many times were you close to pulling the streak of consecutive played games?

CR: “Well, each and every day had its challenges. Going out there and playing every day, I didn’t set out to break this record. I didn’t set out to play in all those consecutive games. To me, it was a matter of having an honorable approach to what you do and dad told me it was my job to come to the ballpark ready to play and if the manager decided he wanted me in the lineup then we just played. The managers really created the streak, especially the first 1000 or 1200 games. I had no say over any of the managers whatsoever. It’s kind of ironic when you think about it. Toward the end, people said I was bigger than the manager’s decision and the manager had to keep putting me in there. It’s my choice, but really it was the choice of the managers that created the streak.”

CY: As the years go on do you miss playing the game less or do you wish you could be back out there and will you be involved with baseball again?

CR: “Well, I am involved in baseball right now. We own two minor league teams. We have kids’ incentives. We have a whole league named after me and we have a chance to impact kids. We do tournament programming, camp programming, and we are looking to expand on the kids’ level across the country. We are looking to expand on our minor league team. We think there is great synergy in that. As far as a big league team, I keep my eyeballs there. Right now I have kids that are at the ages of 13 and 17 and I really have enjoyed having the flexibility of being around them and going back to a baseball schedule like a player or a coach or a manager schedule would be something I am not interested in right now, but if there was a chance to come in and shape an organization or be part of an ownership group I certainly would look at that.”

CY: When do you think baseball will get past the performance enhancing and accusation period of whose doing this and he’s doing that?

CR: “Well, I think the cloud of suspicion has been hanging over baseball for a while. I think there has been some positive things that have come out of that. There has been a drug test policy that was been implemented that got the blessings of both the Players Association and MLB. They are trying to maintain the integrity of this sport and trying to get it back, but that cloud I think will hang over a little longer. I am a believer that the truth will be told. I am not so sure that all the truth or the story hasn’t come out yet. I think baseball has moved on in many ways and the focus on the competitions on the field is really what the game is all about. It seems to be healthy. It seems more people are watching it. We had some exciting playoffs and World Series. I look forward to that cloud kind of being removed from baseball.”

CY: We know how people feel about Mark McGwire not getting in the Hall of Fame yet because of suspected use of something to enhance his performance. Did you have to deal with any of those accusations before the vote came and even after you retired?

CR: “No, not at all. I guess I am thankful that I can claim a sense of naivety, but the voting for the Hall of Fame is a subjective vote and the voters had a responsibility to consider all things. It seems like that cloud of suspicion basically, I guess, Mark not performing too well in the Congressional Hearings cast enough doubt where the voters didn’t feel that they wanted to vote for him this time. We’ll see what happens next time.”

CY: Many people have said that maybe your streak was the thing that put baseball past the last strike. What do you think when people say that?

CR: “I take pride in the fact that you are able to make some good contributions to the sport at certain times. I don’t say that I saved baseball or the streak saved baseball, but certainly the timing was pretty good when after the World Series was canceled and the strike of 1994. The streak, the record breaking game came in the next year. It gave baseball fans something actually to hold on to they liked. I played a role, but I think timing more than anything else helped out. It was a positive thing for baseball to look at and I think it helped the healing process a little bit.”

CY: You played one of your last games at Yankee Stadium. Are you disappointed with all the history there that they are going to build a new Yankee stadium and what is your favorite moment there?

CR: “It is always sad when you think about a place like Yankee Stadium. We have the same feelings about Memorial Stadium even though it didn’t have the same rich history as Yankee Stadium. Memorial Stadium represented a lot of great World Series Championships for the Orioles and great years. I think everybody was torn when they started talking about a new stadium. If you really think about it, the stadium can’t last forever. There is going to have to come a time when it replaces. I think the fear is that the history of the game will be lost. I can tell you that the history won’t be lost. It’s a new phase that will be added on with a new Ballpark.

In some senses I can understand the sadness because there is a feeling when you are in Yankee Stadium that it is a very sacred ground you are walking on and you know you had the same feelings that other great players have had in other eras that played right there on that field. There are so many great moments in Yankee Stadium. There is nothing better or no better place better to compete when you are good and the Yankees are good and you are playing a big series in September in Yankee Stadium, four game series, there is no greater excitement anywhere than the Yankee Stadium.”

CY: Is there any chance you’re going to invest or buy the Baltimore Orioles?

CR: “That depends on whether Mr. Angelos would want to sell the club or not. I met with him- he wears many different hats for me. He has helped me in business and kind of advises me in areas. I look forward to his company. If he decides to move the team, certainly I’d be interested in being part of the next group.”

CY: The Energizer Campaign is working with the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation. Tell me about your foundation and working with Energizer on this who’s going to donate $10,000 to your organization that helps kids through baseball.

CR: “The Cal Sr. Foundation really is all about helping disadvantaged kids. We use baseball to kind of get in front of the kids, but it’s not really about the baseball. It’s really about delivering good solid principles and advice. What we like to say is that there is life lessons that are in the sport that we can help teach. Disadvantaged kids many times don’t have the support network that we all have. I know how important my parents were in my life and many of these kids don’t have that support network. The Cal Sr. Foundation actually uses baseball to kind of get in front of them and support them and hopefully they will take a different path or positive path in their life. We have had very good success so far and we are going to continue to do that.”

CY: Finally, who do you enjoy watching today?

CR: “There is a lot of good guys in the game and a lot of good young players coming out. Joe Mauer is fantastic to watch, I’d like to see him develop, and Ryan Howard in Philadelphia. I like Derek Jeter. I think Derek Jeter really handles himself marvelously on and off the field. He’s a model for a lot of kids to look up to. There is so many great players out there and sometimes we don’t hear enough about the good guys, but certainly there are enough of them in the league to follow.”

You can find more information about the Energizer Keep Going Hall of Fame at www.energizerkeepgoinghalloffame.com

You can find more information about Cal Ripken Jr. at www.ripkenbaseball.com