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Cal Ripken Jr. Retires

Aired June 19, 2001 - 15:39   ET


JOIE CHEN, CNN ANCHOR: All right, moving right away to Camden Yards and you see there the man, Cal Ripken Junior calling it quits. He's with his wife Kelly. Let's listen to what he has to say.



QUESTION: Cal, what took place between the end of last season and the last couple days that made you come to this conclusion?

RIPKEN: The end of last season. The end of last year, I was coming off a period of time when I was out, when I blew my back out again, and if I lump those two years together they were a struggle year physically, and resulted in surgery and last year I pushed it a little too hard in trying to get back, and it blew out again. And as I rested and as I healed, I had to find out where I was physically.

I definitely wanted to continue to play, and the last month of the season proved that I should give it a try. So I used the off season, finally, for the first time in two years, I can make some gains in the off-season. Physically I worked out really hard. As a matter of fact, in hindsight it turned out to be too hard as I broke my rib when I was actually training. But I felt good about the physical side and I really wanted to give it a run to see how felt physically and where I was and put myself to a test.

The broken rib kind of set things back a little bit. In hind- sight now I had an abbreviated spring training. I wish would have taken a longer spring training. But I think that is immaterial. I think once we get into the season some of the things that prompted me to make the decision was the things that were pulling me, you know, towards a decision and towards retirement.

The last couple of years, I've been noticing that I miss being away from home. I miss my kids' activities, and it seemed like the passion, and maybe there was a substitute when I was hurt, but I was getting into other things: My youth initiatives, my teachings, and I found out that my energy and the challenges before me had energized me the same way that baseball did when I walked into the ballpark as a rookie. So I had to kind of place that in an area until I found out for sure what my playing status was.

And I think going into the season, I didn't know. I definitely didn't know where things were going to go. I had to play it out to see where it would end up. And last couple of weeks it dawned on me that this was a decision that was -- was kind of tormenting me a little bit. And within the last few days I became pretty clear on it and I made a decision. I was asked a question yesterday, in a direct fashion, in a story in which I was talking about my youth initiatives.

I was excited about the design element of the Aberdeen project. I was excited about the potential -- recruiting domestically and globally for our league, merging teaching and philosophy in youth sports and really excited about a chance to impact the grassroots level of baseball. And when I started thinking about those things it became crystal clear, and then the question was asked to me: Is this your last year? And I paused for a minute wondering what the ramifications of me answering the question directly would be, which is what you see right now, and I just said, yes. I said this is my last year. Did I answer the question? Because I was awful long-winded.

QUESTION: If your season, baseball playing would have been (UNINTELLIGIBLE) .320 and have 15 home runs, would your decision have been different?

RIPKEN: Well, that was the question I had to ask myself. And that was the tormenting part. And honestly I can say no. Would I be able to stick my chest out a little further? Would I be happier and less frustrated from a baseball perspective? Absolutely. But ultimately, it wouldn't change the fact -- the feelings that I have for other projects, the challenges that are ahead of me outside of my playing career, and it wouldn't change the feeling of my need to be close to my family.

I think to fully understand that would -- to be -- is to fully understand the lifestyle which I've led my whole life. As a kid I was subject to the baseball schedule. My dad was in baseball, professional baseball, and it some cases a minor league manager. It was a little more time consuming, he was away from home a little more often.

As an adult I went right into the business. And as a husband and a family man, it affected me firsthand that I couldn't be there, you know, for my family the way that I wanted. And I always planed that someday that I would have that window of opportunity that maybe my dad didn't have with us kids where I could be there for the family in a more complete way.

QUESTION: Cal, when you look back as a child, is there a moment when the Orioles became so important to you? And the second question is: Isn't it quite unusual for a player to be able to spend an entire career today with one ballclub?

RIPKEN: Well, I think I've said a lot thinking about my own playing career. If I you were to set out to try to write a story about an ideal situation or an ideal career for a baseball player, I think my story would have to be considered. I'm a hometown guy, my dad was with the Orioles, I can't tell you when the Orioles were really, really important to me, because I can't remember that far back. As far back as my memory will allow me, baseball and the Orioles were it. And -- I suddenly just forgot my train of thought, what...

QUESTION: To be able to play the entire career there?

RIPKEN: Oh, and so, my career and then I was able to be drafted against all odds, against big odds, with the Orioles, then make it in the Orioles and then actually have a long career with the Orioles. If you just add up all the odds against that sort of thing happening it's pretty remarkable, and along the way there were many, many other good things that happened besides the ones I mentioned. But I feel lucky.

I feel lucky to have had the opportunity to play in the city, my hometown. I can live here. I can raise my family here. I'm part of the community. It's been a very -- it's been a very ideal situation.

QUESTION: Cal, how satisfied are you that you have accomplished everything in the game of baseball, are you satisfied?

RIPKEN: I can't say that I've accomplished everything. I can put it into these words: From the very early point in my career, I was around players that were ready to retire, and I remember I had a curiosity in the back of the bus. I'd ask them questions like, now that you're at this point in your career, do you have any regrets looking back over your career?

And more times than not I heard responses like, I wish I would have taken care of myself better, I wish I'd have played more, I wish I'd have taken it more seriously. Those are the comments I got when I was polling these players. And maybe that was the motivation to try to maximize and do everything I can. Maybe that was some of the motivation for showing up and playing every single day.

I didn't want to be in a position at the end of my career to look back over it and regret not going about it a certain way. So when I look back on my career, you know, I have a certain set of skills and I tried to maximize that. I had an opportunity and I tried to maximize my playing opportunity, and I tried to love every minute that I was on the field.

So when I look back on all my experiences I don't have those sort of regrets that the players had when I asked them years ago. And so I accomplished what my skills set, and my ability, and my determination allowed me to, and I'm proud of the experience and the mark that I could leave.

QUESTION: Cal, you said as you walked in here, as Kelly pointed out, that it feels like we're getting married all over again. (UNINTELLIGIBLE) How hard is it to divorce yourself from the game of baseball?

RIPKEN: I don't think I'll ever divorce myself from the game of baseball. is in my blood. I don't see this as an ending so much, I see it as a beginning and an opportunity and a chance. I'm not stopping something. I'm just moving on. The reality is that players can't play forever, and I've always known that and I've always taken a fairly aggressive position in trying to prepare for the next stage of my life. Realistically, the next stage of my life might be longer than this first stage, and so I've done a lot of things off the field and I tried to create roads and tried to tap into interests or find out what my interests might be. And I found the last couple of years that I have a big interest in teaching baseball, and youth initiatives, creating a fun environment, promoting baseball at the very lowest level, at the grassroots level.

Because tomorrow's players are those guys today. And baseball has afforded me the experience and the opportunity and maybe I have a platform, and now I have the attention to actually make a significant difference, and there's a lot of pieces of the puzzle in place, and I think the opportunities are unlimited.

I have a league named after myself that is approaching a million people. We're going to recruit globally, we're going to recruit domestically. I'm building a facility to house the world series. I want to merge all the teaching knowledge that we have of different age groups and I want to impact a philosophy of fun and I want to energize the kids to play baseball.

QUESTION: Cal, one of the things you said about this, now that you made this decision: There is going to obviously be a farewell type of tour thing between now and the end of the year. It's a two-part question: One, have you given that much thought? And two, have you given much thought about where you will play the last game, whether it will be here at Camden Yards or whether you'd wind it up at Yankee stadium?

RIPKEN: All those things I haven't though a whole lot about. I've got to tell you that the idea of a farewell tour has never set well with me. Not for the reasons -- I'm just uncomfortable getting that sort of attention for those reasons. And I think maybe I was tormented a little bit by my decision because I knew, if I made it, if I was honest and I even said in spring training that if I make that decision I don't think I will keep it a secret.

I know inside of me that when you make a decision you don't want to let it out. It's like having a little secret inside that -- it bothers you until you tell somebody. And I know from the ramifications of saying this, that it will change things for the rest of the year.

CHEN: Making it official. Cal Ripken announcing his retirement at the end of the season for the Baltimore Orioles. Cal Ripken by the numbers played 21 seasons for the Baltimore Orioles. Won the series with the Orioles back in 1983. True devoted Oriole all the way to the end, talking about it saying and that he felt lucky today, Cal Ripken.



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