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Baseball's 'Iron Man' Cal Ripken Plays Not My Job

Baltimore Oriole Cal Ripken Jr. dives for a ball during a game against the Cleveland Indians on Sept. 15, 1997. i i

hide captionCal Ripken Jr., pictured above in 1997, spent his entire career playing for the Baltimore Orioles. He retired in 2001.

Ted Mathias/AFP/Getty Images
Baltimore Oriole Cal Ripken Jr. dives for a ball during a game against the Cleveland Indians on Sept. 15, 1997.

Cal Ripken Jr., pictured above in 1997, spent his entire career playing for the Baltimore Orioles. He retired in 2001.

Ted Mathias/AFP/Getty Images

Cal Ripken Jr. knows streaks. The Baseball Hall of Famer played 21 years with the Baltimore Orioles and holds the record for most consecutive games played.

We've invited Ripken to play a game called "You want to see a real streak? Here, hold my pants." Ripken is known for playing 2,632 consecutive games, but we don't think it counts as a streak because he was wearing clothes. We'll ask him three questions about sports' real streakers.

Copyright © 2011 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

PETER SAGAL, Host:

And now the game where we ask people who have done great things to do something significantly less great. So kids, you know when we boring old people go on about how great baseball used to be? Well, the guy we are being so boring about is Cal Ripken, Jr. He played 21 years with one team, the Baltimore Orioles. He's a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and of course, holds the unbreakable record for most consecutive games played. Cal Ripken, Jr., welcome to WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

CAL RIPKEN: Thank you. It's my pleasure to be with you.

SAGAL: So we were looking into this streak thing for which you are known, 2,632 consecutive games played without missing one. And we found out that the active player with the most consecutive games, i.e., the guy who's got the best chance of breaking that record is Matt Kemp, and he has 204 games.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So the question is: are you starting to get nervous about this guy?

RIPKEN: Yes, I'm monitoring him very closely.

SAGAL: The fact is, if he plays five times as many games as he has now consecutively, he won't even be half the way to your mark. How do you explain that; that you were able to do that and the players of this era simply can't even get close?

RIPKEN: Well, I think the mindset has changed a little bit. They're pumping a whole lot more money into the players, the investment is higher. And they want to be a little more cautious.

SAGAL: Wait a minute, they're actually injecting them with money?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RIPKEN: That's what it seems like. We're going through the free agent list. But certainly, there's more at risk now and the owners have taken a much more cautious approach.

SAGAL: You grew up in a baseball family, obviously your father, Cal Ripken, Sr., played the game and was a coach. When you were a kid, did you ever - I mean you hear stories about athletic kids who were pressured by their parents to play. Was that ever your experience?

RIPKEN: No, my dad was away most of the time, because baseball requires you to be away most of the time. So at home, my mom played the role of dad and my mom, and no pressure. You know, he wanted us to find what we loved to do, all the kids in the family, and really going for it. His secret to success was to find something you love and then put all your might towards it.

SAGAL: When your mother was playing the role of both father and mother, did that include arguments?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Did she stand there and go, "He should play; he should be practicing. No, why don't you give him a break. No, he should be out there."

RIPKEN: Well, she did have multiple personalities. Yes, thanks for reminding me.

SAGAL: That would help, I guess.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: And your brother played as well, Billy Ripken?

RIPKEN: Yeah, my Billy was four years younger than me, and he got drafted and move through the system and came to the big leagues around '87 and we were teammates.

SAGAL: Oh, that's great. And Billy Ripken, he, of course, has the greatest baseball card ever, doesn't he?

RIPKEN: Yes, he wrote something on the bottom of the knob of the bat, kind of an internal funny joke where he could find his bat more easily. And then...

SAGAL: Yeah, I should say that the thing that he wrote on the bottom of his bat is unpronounceable on public radio. We cannot say it.

RIPKEN: Yeah, I was getting ready to say it. Good thing you stopped me.

SAGAL: Oh yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Because I know you're famous for your foul mouth, Cal.

FAITH SALIE: Is it a verb? Is it a verb?

RIPKEN: One's a noun. Face is the second part of it.

SAGAL: Yes. The second word is face, as you say, and the first word is a descriptor.

SALIE: Okay.

BRIAN BABYLON: This is like a parlor game.

SAGAL: It really is.

SALIE: Right, right.

RIPKEN: Well, it could be a verb.

SAGAL: This is a clue that'll mean a lot to a public radio audience. It is an alliterative phrase.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So go on, so he wrote this on the bottom of his bat, and?

RIPKEN: And a card photographer asked him if he would pose for a baseball card photo. And he lifted the bat up on his shoulder and the knob was revealed and he took the picture and it went to print with that expression on the bottom of the bat.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Right.

KYRIE O: It's really great.

SAGAL: One of the reasons everybody was so excited, I remember so vividly that game where you broke the record and you ran around the field and shook everybody's hand. And it was a great, great moment. But one of the reasons people were so happy was, frankly, it couldn't have happened to a nicer guy; that you were a player that everybody could get behind, you were a gentleman on and off the field. You were a role model, which is a role I know you take seriously. Does that ever get to be a drag? Do you ever, like, want to go out and behave really badly, but you can't because you're Cal Ripken, Jr.?

RIPKEN: The answer to that is yes, I'd like to be able to behave really badly and not have it matter.

SAGAL: Really?

RIPKEN: You know, the funny part about it is, I'm okay with being out in public, except when you get in a fight with your wife or you get in a fight with your kids or your daughter calls you a name and storms off and you feel pretty helpless to do anything.

SALIE: Did she call you the name that was on the bottom of your brother's bat?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RIPKEN: Sorry. My daughter's name is Rachel. Sorry, Rachel, but yes, she did.

SAGAL: Did she really?

SALIE: Oh my goodness.

SAGAL: Did she really?

BABYLON: Does she know who you are?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BABYLON: You're Cal Ripken Jr.

SAGAL: Exactly.

CONNOR: Mr. Ripken, did you have any rituals that you did every single time for 2,000 some odd times?

RIPKEN: How do I tell this to you in a way that doesn't make me look too bad.

CONNOR: Oh, no one's listening.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RIPKEN: No, some people didn't launder their shirt or their underwear and all that kind of stuff in all the time they played, for superstitions. I didn't do that. But there was one piece of equipment I wore the whole time for the whole streak.

CONNOR: Oh.

SAGAL: Really?

RIPKEN: It was a metal cup that protected...

SAGAL: Yes.

CONNOR: We're with you.

RIPKEN: The most important part.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RIPKEN: My dad, it is kind of weird, and this is true, is that, you know, when we went away from home, dad kind of brought me down and gave me an Oriole bag and then presented me with the cup and said, you know...

BABYLON: Now you're a man.

RIPKEN: Welcome to manhood.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SALIE: Oh my gosh.

CONNOR: Wow.

SAGAL: Well that's how he got his nickname, the Iron Man, right there.

RIPKEN: There you go.

SAGAL: Exactly. Do you still enjoy baseball? I mean, I know you run three minor league teams and you teach baseball. But do you ever say, oh what shall I do this afternoon? I know, I shall go to the ballpark and take in a baseball game?

RIPKEN: You know, I watch it not nearly as closely as I used to. And I'm also sucked in to being the assistant coach of my boy's baseball team.

SAGAL: Wait, wait a minute. I'm sorry.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SALIE: Assistant.

SAGAL: You're the assistant coach?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: This guy is coaching the baseball team and he's like looking over and Cal Ripken is standing in the corner, well I don't know about that.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SALIE: He's cutting oranges in the corners.

SAGAL: You could do that, says Cal Ripken Jr., if you want to.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: The assistant coach? What, was coaching too much of a commitment? Because I know how you are about commitment.

RIPKEN: Well, you know, the secret here is that you get to run the team and you don't get blamed for the mistakes.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Cal Ripken, we are thrilled to have you with us and delighted to talk to you. But we have also asked you here to play a game we're calling?

CARL KASELL, Host:

You want to see a real streak? Here, hold my pants.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: So you're known for your quote "streak," but we don't think it counts as a streak because you played every game wearing clothes. We're going to ask you three questions about real streakers. Get two right; you'll win our prize for one of our listeners, Carl's voice on their home answering machine. Carl, who is Cal Ripken, Jr., playing for?

KASELL: Cal is playing for Lorraine Shaw-Cooke of Eastchester, New York.

SAGAL: You ready to play, Cal?

RIPKEN: I am.

SAGAL: All right, sir. One popular target for streakers every year is Wimbledon, the tennis tournament there. In fact, streaking is so common that one of these things is true. Is it A: an estimated 15 percent of ticket holders are there for the pastime known as "streakpeeking"? B: you can place a bet with a bookie whether or not a streaker will appear at any given tournament? Or C: the stands all have signs saying "any disrobing will not be tolerated"?

RIPKEN: I like number three.

BABYLON: That sounds very British.

SAGAL: Any disrobing will not be tolerated. That would be a charming British sign. But no, I'm afraid the answer was, in fact, B. You can place a bet with bookies every year as to whether there'll be streakers. At a recent Wimbledon, the bookies were giving 6 to 1 against.

RIPKEN: I thought that was winterball. I messed up on that one.

SAGAL: Now you still have two more chances. We know you don't give up. One of the greatest streakers of all time, or so he claims, is a man named Mark Roberts. And his greatest exploit was sneaking onto the field of the Super Bowl, dressed as a referee. But his attempt to shock America with his naked self on the field went wrong. What happened? Was it A: a player, mistaking him for a real referee, started screaming at him and he burst into tears?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: B: the Velcro in his tear-away pants got stuck, so he was arrested while still trying to tear off his pants? Or C: he did it right after the famous Janet Jackson "wardrobe malfunction," so nobody cared?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RIPKEN: I'd say the Velcro got stuck

SAGAL: You think, he said quizzically?

RIPKEN: Yes.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: All right. Well I'm afraid it's not. The answer, in fact, was C.

RIPKEN: It was?

SAGAL: What this guy did, this guy, again, he has streaked all over the world, and he actually got onto the field of the Super Bowl dressed as a referee. And he tore off this clothes and danced around in a thong on the field until a player tackled him. And nobody noticed because they had all just seen Janet Jackson's boob.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: The last question. Even among streakers there are some feats revered above all others, including which of these. One of these really happened. A: the guy who streaked at the Westminster Dog Show, wearing nothing but a leash, held by his clothed dog?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

CONNOR: Please be true.

SAGAL: B: the woman who streaked by walking slowly and graciously naked down the red carpet at the 1977 Oscars? Or C: the man who ruined a Naked Rugby game by running across the field fully clothed?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RIPKEN: Number one.

SAGAL: Number one? You're going to go for the guy who streaked at the Westminster Dog Show?

RIPKEN: Yeah.

SAGAL: Naked with his clothed dog?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

RIPKEN: It's too bizarre and I went with logic on the other two, so I'm going away from logic.

SAGAL: I'm afraid it's not true. I wish it were.

CONNOR: Me too.

SAGAL: I wish it were. But the answer is C. Dunedin, New Zealand hosts a naked Rugby match every year and one year, a guy wearing a full suit of clothes, ran right across the pitch, scandalizing the spectators.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BABYLON: The gall.

RIPKEN: So I was 0 for 3?

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Hold on. It's not official until we get the official scoring. So Carl, how did Cal Ripken do on our quiz?

KASELL: Well, one of the few times in his career, Peter, he struck out on this one. Three incorrect answers, so he needed at least two to win for Lorraine Shaw-Cooke.

SAGAL: Oh well. On the other hand, it was a streak.

RIPKEN: Yeah, I gave up after the first two, by the way.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Yeah. Cal Ripken gives up for the first time in his life. Cal Ripken, Jr., is a 19-time All Star member of the Baseball Hall of Fame. He is leading the search to find the 2011 inductee into the Energizer Keep Going Hall of Fame. Cal Ripken, Jr., so thrilled to talk to you, thank you so much for all you did for the game, and for us watching the game, and for being here today. Thank you so much.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

RIPKEN: Okay, bye-bye.

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