IT WAS spring 1987, a miserably hot day at Bobby Maduro Stadium
in Miami, but new Oriole manager Cal Ripken Sr. and his
sons--shortstop Cal Jr. and second baseman Billy--were bouncing
around like kids who had been allowed onto a big league field
for the first time. In fact, it was their first major league
camp together. "We got any more Ripkens stashed away in this
organization?" a beaming Oriole owner Edward Bennett Williams
asked. "An uncle? An aunt? We got three, we need six."
This is an article from the Sept. 15, 1995 issue
Three Ripkens weren't enough to bring another pennant to
Baltimore, but they did make history in realizing a family
dream: On July 11, 1987, Cal Sr. became the first manager ever
to write the names of two sons into a major league lineup. He
did that 64 times before he was fired a week into the '88
season. But he returned to his old job as third base coach the
following spring, and the three Ripkens spent four more years
together in Baltimore.
"I'm just glad we had the time that we had," says Cal Jr., who
has been the only Ripken to wear an Oriole uniform since the
club dumped his father and brother after the 1992 season. "It
was special." Billy, who was 22 when he was invited to his first
major league camp in '87, hadn't played alongside Cal Jr. since
he was about 11--a runt whom his older brother always picked
first in pickup baseball, basketball and football games. In the
latter, Cal was always the quarterback and Billy the receiver.
When they hooked up on touchdown passes, Billy spiked the ball
and made his big brother laugh.
Billy wound up opening the '87 season at Triple A Rochester, but
he got off to a good start there, was recalled to the majors on
July 11 and started at second base. He batted .308 and played
excellent defense the rest of the year. It didn't take long for
the Ripken brothers to become the best double play combination
in the American League. "They were truly as one out there," says
former Oriole Mike Flanagan, who is now the team's pitching
coach. "[Working together] means everything at those positions."
If Cal Jr., a genius at knowing where to play hitters, moved two
steps toward second base, so did Billy move two steps to his
left and first baseman Eddie Murray take two steps toward first.
"I was very eager to learn what he knew," Billy says. "He was in
control, the general out there. The idea was to have four
infielders moving at the same time. We'd move during a count,
sometimes twice in a count."
Before games the Ripken brothers played catch with only each
other during the 5 1/2 seasons they were on the Orioles together.
Between innings they stood behind second base and discussed the
game at hand. It wasn't long before one knew instinctively what
the other would do in all situations. For instance, with a
runner on first, if Cal went to his left to field a ground ball,
he always shoveled the ball underhand to second. If Billy went
to his left, he always spun away from the infield and threw to
The brothers always sat in the rear of the plane on road trips,
and it was commonplace for Cal Sr. to walk back and join them
during a flight. "We'd let Dad in on some of the secret things
we had done as kids," Cal Jr. says. "But most of the time, we
found that he knew about them all along."
Flanagan, who sometimes sat with the Ripkens on the team plane,
says, "They'd talk about growing up--about which one was the
knucklehead. I think Billy always wanted to have Cal's size and
strength, and Cal always wanted to be more spirited like Billy.
Billy could really make Cal laugh. They needed each other."
At the ballpark the Ripken brothers maintained a professional
relationship with their father. "I called him Dad when I first
came up in '81, when I was 20 years old," Cal Jr. says. "I was
kidded by teammates: 'Dad.... Dad.... Hi, Dad!' I couldn't
call him Dad anymore. I called him Pops, Senior, Bub or by his
Accordingly, Flanagan says, Cal Sr. never put his sons above any
other player on the team. "When he said all his players were his
sons, he really felt that way," Flanagan says. "He chewed us
out, he chewed them out. He patted us on the back, he patted
them on the back. That was what was so special about the family."
There were some awkward moments nevertheless. By September 1987
Cal Jr. not only hadn't missed a game in more than five years,
he also hadn't missed an inning. Late on a Saturday night in the
lounge of a Boston hotel, Cal Sr., in a rare private
conversation with a writer, said the Oriole front office wanted
him to put an end to his son's streak of innings played,
claiming it was an unnecessary distraction. "The kid doesn't
need to come out," the father said proudly. "He should never
Two nights later in Toronto the Orioles were trailing the Blue
Jays 18-3 in the eighth. Cal Sr. pulled Junior to a corner of
the dugout and asked him, "What do you think about coming out
for an inning?"
"What do you think?" Junior said.
"I think it would be a good thing.''
"Then let's do it.''
Back in Baltimore the end of Ripken's streak, at 8,243
consecutive innings, was a bigger story than the pathetic Oriole
pitching staff, which had given up a major league record 10 home
runs in the loss to Toronto. As Billy said after the game, "He's
bigger than life."
Life for the Ripkens changed after Cal Sr., whose club went
67-95 in 1987, was fired six games--all losses--into the '88
season. Cal Jr. and Billy were terribly disappointed, but
neither one ever lashed out at the organization for the swift
dismissal of their father. No major league manager has ever been
fired so early in a season. "I didn't see who would have been
served by [blasting the Orioles]," Cal Jr. says. "It wouldn't
have given my father another chance to manage. There was
disappointment, but not genuine anger. We knew it could happen.
But that doesn't mean we didn't have opinions and feelings."
Cal Sr., who had been an Oriole coach for 11 years before his
turn as manager, was rehired to coach third in 1989. He stayed
at that post until after the '92 season, when management decided
his performance had slipped and fired him again. More bad news
came later in the off-season, when the Orioles signed free-agent
second baseman Harold Reynolds and released Billy. After having
his best season (.291, 28 doubles) with the Orioles in 1990,
Billy hit only .216 and .230 over the next two years.
The following spring only one Ripken reported to the Oriole
camp. "In some ways,'' Cal Jr. said at the time, "I feel lost
out there." There were no more Ripkens stashed in the
"I miss those days," Billy says. "Those were good times."