A Manual For Baseball And Life
by Cal Ripken, Sr.
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THE EARLY DAYS
Chapter One: My Life in Baseball
My father, Arend Ripken, was killed in a car crash when I was nine. He really didn't play that much baseball, but he was always interested in the game. I got involved in baseball because of my two older brothers, Oliver -- eighteen years older than I, and Bill -- ten years older -- who played baseball and softball. We were a baseball family.
I just loved the game from a very young age. I've always said that I was a better hitter at four than I was at twenty-four, because as a little kid I was always out in the yard with a ball, a bat, and a glove.
As a boy I was more of a player than a fan, because we were out in the country, and the only way we could follow major-league baseball games was on the radio. We had a Triple A club in Baltimore at the time, but no major-league team until 1954.
My brothers and I played together for the Aberdeen Canners in a Sunday-afternoon league called the Susquehanna League. Ours was an amateur team, although it was kind of a semi-pro league.
Ollie, who like our father worked for a retail lumber company, was the catcher and Bill played centerfield. When I moved up from batboy to catch for the team, Ollie moved to rightfield. Ollie was a good hitter who won the league's batting title, and a good defensive player, well-rounded in all facets of the game, who could've had the opportunity to play professional ball had World War II not entered the picture.
Bill was a great outfielder with an excellent arm, and he was a good hitter, too. He could run, he could throw, he could field, and he could hit. He was a very good two-strike hitter. But at that time there were a lot more farm clubs than there were major-league clubs.
Bill was signed by the Brooklyn Dodgers, and he made it to Triple A, with the Montreal Royals of the International League. After four years he quit pro ball and took a job in a bank. Branch Rickey even tried to talk him out of it, but Bill was tired of all the traveling and just felt that he didn't want to do it anymore. It's just my opinion, but I think if he would've stayed one more year he would've gone on to the big leagues.
Copyright © 1999 by Cal Ripken, Sr. Excerpted with permission.