Cover image for The Ripken way : a manual for baseball and life
The Ripken way : a manual for baseball and life
Ripken, Cal, 1935-1999.
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New York : Simon & Schuster, [1999]

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241 pages, 8 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations ; 23 cm
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GV865.R469 A3 1999 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Drawing on his nearly forty years in baseball, Ripken shares his advice on how to cope with success and failure, his four D's of parenting, and the need for a commitment to excellence.

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Library Journal Review

Ripken does for baseball what Bill Bradley did for basketball in Values of the Game (LJ 11/1/98); he shows how it can be used as a primer on life. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



From Chapter One: My Life in Baseball THE EARLY DAYS 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. DOING IT ALL In the minor leagues I did it all: I managed, I played -- I even drove the bus. I did all three in 1962 at Appleton, Wisconsin. I always said I got the managing job in Appleton because I had driven the bus for half a year in 1960, after Earl Weaver, who was the manager in Appleton at the time, fired the bus driver. Everyone said, "Ripken will drive the bus," and so I wound up driving it the rest of the year. Then when I went back to Appleton to manage in '62, Ollie Lindquist, who owned the bus company, wouldn't give the ball club the bus unless I drove it. I enjoyed every day I spent in the minor leagues. I enjoyed every day I spent in the big leagues. I would go back and do everything exactly the same as I did the first time. There's only one thing I probably wouldn't do. In 1957, when I was playing in Phoenix, the clutch on the bus was slipping as we were halfway up a mountain. The bus driver got the bus off to the side of the road, and I said I'd adjust the clutch, because I had a little bit of a mechanical background with vehicles. I told the bus driver to turn the wheels of the bus all the way to the left, and I got under the bus and adjusted the clutch. Then we drove on over the mountain successfully and got to our destination. Well, as I said, there's one thing I'd change: If I had that to do again, I'd tell the bus driver to let the wheels of the bus stay straight. With those wheels turned, if the brakes had failed and the bus had drifted backward, it would've run right over me. FROM PLAYER TO MANAGER Sometimes you'll hear people talk about a particular player in terms of what kind of a coach or manager he would make. But I can tell you that as a player, I wasn't thinking about that sort of thing -- I was just concentrating on playing the game and moving up the ladder. I guess when I was in the minor leagues I probably thought in the back of my mind that if I was unable to move up as a player, or if something happened as far as an injury, I would want to stay in the game as a manager or a coach. But you don't give much thought to that when you're playing. Here's how I first came to consider managing: It was in March of 1961, and I was twenty-five years old, coming off my best year in the minor leagues -- a .281 average and 74 RBIs in 107 games at Class B with the Orioles' Fox Cities affiliate in Appleton, Wisconsin, while playing for a twenty-nine-year-old manager by the name of Earl Weaver. (Cal Jr. was born on August 24, 1960, so that had been a pretty good year all around.) I was catching for Rochester, Baltimore's Triple A club, in a spring training game in Daytona, and I got hit on the right shoulder with two foul balls in succession. I didn't think too much of it at the time, because after that happened I still threw two guys out at second base. But the next day when I came to the park, I couldn't hold on to the ball. I went to play catch on the side and the ball fell right out of my hand. I went to Jim Dudley, our trainer, and said, "Dud, I can't throw the ball." He thought I was kidding, because I kidded around a lot with him, but then he realized that I was serious. There wasn't a lot he could do, though. When I finally was able to get a hold of the ball and throw it, my shoulder hurt terribly. I couldn't throw, which meant I lost strength in the shoulder. They sent me to the Orioles' Double A club in Little Rock, Arkansas, where the climate was a lot warmer, which they thought might help, and I played in thirty-two games there, but the shoulder just got progressively worse. That's when I began thinking about trying a year managing in the minor leagues. As it so happened, Harry Dalton, the Orioles farm director, called me and said, "I've got a managing job for you." All I said was, "Thank you." I didn't ask where, when, how much money, or anything else. I went to Class D Leesburg, Florida, to manage, as a replacement for Billy DeMars, who had just been promoted to Class B. I managed my first game with Leesburg on June 7, 1961, and I wound up playing fifty-two games there as well. I was young for a manager -- because a guy of twenty-five was usually still playing, or if he didn't have a lot of talent he was released and was out of baseball -- but by that point in my playing career I had shown the ability to run a ball club. I was a catcher, and the catcher ran the ball game. I moved people around on the field and showed that I knew the game and could handle people. The kids in Class D were seventeen, eighteen, nineteen years old, and in those days when you were managing you weren't just the manager, you were the pitching coach, you were the hitting coach, you were every kind of coach. I didn't have a coach working with me in the minor leagues until Chico Fernandez coached for me at Rochester in 1969. In mid-August, after about ten weeks with Leesburg, I went back to Rochester because they needed a catcher, and I finished the season playing in eleven games there. The next year I continued to manage and play in the minor leagues, this time with the Class D Club in Appleton, but I knew by the end of that season that I wasn't going to play any more because of my shoulder. Had it not been for the injury I probably would've played at least a few more years, but a catcher who can't throw does more harm than good. They found out that those foul balls back in March of '61 had knocked the deltoid muscle back and out of place, and the whole shoulder had been set incorrectly for a three- or four-month period. We were able to work on it and get it back in place, but the muscle that I used to throw with -- that comes up my arm and goes to my shoulder and down my back -- had shrunk. It was a matter of being able to get that muscle stretched out to where it should be, and that took a long, long time. In fact, it was six years before I threw without pain. I was probably the one who started the practice of managers and coaches throwing batting practice from in front of the pitching rubber, because I threw batting practice every day in Leesburg from about forty-five feet away. The groundskeepers would get mad at me because I was stepping on the edge of their grass in front of the mound. Once I got the muscle stretched out, and I was able to throw without pain, I continued to throw batting practice every place I ever coached or managed. In the big leagues, there was many a time that I'd throw for an hour and a half of early hitting, and then throw to my regular group for fifteen or twenty minutes of regular hitting. My injury was just one of those freak accidents that happens. Fortunately for me I was able to come up with a managing job and stay in baseball, move along, and eventually get to the big leagues as a coach and manager. MY BROTHER JIMMY I don't know if there's anyone in the game of baseball with whom I have more of a history, or to whom I'm closer, than Jimmy Williams. He's almost like a brother to me, considering that his association with my family dates back to 1947. Jimmy and my brother Bill both signed with the Dodgers in '47, and they played the outfield together and roomed together at Danville in '48. I played against Jimmy when we were both in the Texas League in the late' 50s. In the early '60s, when he was managing in the Dodger organization and, of course, I was managing in the Oriole organization, Jimmy was at Grand Forks in the Northern League when I was at Aberdeen, South Dakota. In the early '70s, he was at Columbus, Georgia, in the Houston organization, when I was at Asheville, North Carolina, in the Southern League. After that he came over to our organization, managed Cal at Double A Charlotte in 1980, and came to the big leagues as a coach in 1981. He and I were both coaches on the Oriole club from '81 to '86, and he was my third base coach in '87, when both Cal and Bill were on the club. And he would've been my third base coach in '88 too, if Mr. Edward Bennett Williams, the owner, hadn't been so insistent on making a change. Jimmy is like part of the family. We're still close -- Jimmy lives in Joppa, which is just fifteen miles down the road, and he and his wife and Vi and I play a lot of golf together. Jimmy was a very good teacher and a very good instructor, and he was a good manager and a good coach. He was just a good baseball man. He was brought up in the Dodger organization, which is a very fundamentally sound organization, and he was as responsible as anyone for making the Orioles a solid organization. He was a very well-rounded baseball man. He managed in the minor leagues at the time when you didn't have coaches, so he was the manager, the pitching coach, the hitting coach, the infield coach, and the outfield coach. I went through that same training process. Jimmy was always very careful not to favor the top prospects on his club. If he was running a drill, he wouldn't just involve the most highly regarded players on the club, he'd bring in other players so that he'd keep the loyalty of all his players. That's just the mark of a good baseball manager. THE ROBINSONS Frank Robinson and Brooks Robinson were two of the finest players I've ever been associated with. Frank was blessed with great natural talent. But he, like all the great ones, came out and worked at his job. If we were working on something as a group, he did it right and he urged others to do it right if they weren't. That's what you have to do to be a truly great player. I'd put Frank up there with all the other all-time greats. He hit 586 home runs. He drove in more than 1,800 runs and he scored more than 1,800 runs. He hit for average -- he was a lifetime .294 hitter -- and he was just a great all-around player. In his six seasons in Baltimore, 1966-71, the Orioles won four pennants. I can't say that Frank was the best player we had, or the best I've ever been around, or the best I ever saw, because we had Brooks and Boog Powell on those clubs, as well as Jim Palmer and Dave McNally and Mike Cuellar. There were a lot of great ballplayers in the big leagues at that time. That's like asking, "Who was the best player who ever played the game?" Well, whoever you say you're going to get an argument. You could talk about Joe DiMaggio, he was a complete player, there wasn't any question about it. But then somebody's going to say, "Wait a minute, what about Willie Mays? What about Babe Ruth? Ted Williams? Stan Musial?" You're talking about a group of people that you can't narrow down to one person. You can have an opinion, but even though you might say your opinion is fact, that doesn't mean it is. The era that a particular player played in doesn't mean a whole lot. A good baseball player today would be a good player if he had played years ago. A good player of years ago would be a good player today. A good player is a good player. The type of player that someone is today, that's the type of player he's going to be wherever or whenever he plays. The fact that they played the game a little bit differently years ago doesn't take away from the individual player's ability. Brooks Robinson was also a great player with tremendous natural ability. And Brooks took ground balls at third base every day. He practiced his job, and he practiced it correctly. Whenever I talk about Cal Jr. and Mark Belanger, I talk about how when they went out and took their ground balls, they took them correctly. They might have caught the ball one-handed, but they caught it properly. It was the same thing with Brooks. He went out and took his ground balls correctly, and when that same ground ball was hit in the game, it was automatic for him to approach it the right way. Brooks wasn't blessed with a strong throwing arm, but he made up for the lack of velocity on his throws by getting rid of the ball quickly and being very accurate. He also had tremendous reflexes on hard-hit balls. Brooks studied hitters and pitchers -- he knew how to play each hitter, and he knew the type of pitch that was being thrown in a particular situation -- so he was able to position himself better. That's being prepared to go out and play your game. He was a very intelligent player. You have to be intelligent if you want to be a good player, there's no question about that. As I've said so many times, the defensive player has to be thinking: What am I going to do with the ball when it's hit to me? He goes over that before the play, before the pitch is made. As a player you have to do that consistently. That's how you become a good player. Copyright © 1999 by Cal Ripken, Sr.