WASHINGTON – Not only is Oriole Park at Camden Yards the house that Ripken built, but the road outside it is a step closer to belonging to the former Oriole great, too.
The House of Representatives passed a measure Wednesday to rename the portion of Interstate-395 that runs by Oriole Park in downtown Baltimore after 2007 Baseball Hall of Fame inductee Oriole Cal Ripken Jr.
The Senate must approve the resolution before it becomes official.
The measure, which would rename the road Cal Ripken Way, was sponsored by Maryland Rep. John Sarbanes, D-Towson, and co-sponsored by every Maryland representative.
“I can think of no more fitting way to honor Cal Ripken,” said Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Baltimore, on the House floor.
Sarbanes praised Ripken as the common man’s ballplayer and credited baseball’s Ironman with helping the national pastime to recover after the World Series-less 1994 season.
“Many fans mark Sept. 6, 1995, the night Ripken played in his 2,131st game, as the night that America came back to baseball,” Sarbanes said.
Ripken played in a record 2,362 straight games from May 30, 1982, to Sept. 20, 1998, during his 21-year career with Baltimore.
Cummings credited Ripken for his workmanlike effort and integrity and contrasted him with other ballplayers who have appeared on Capitol Hill.
“Players put their heads down when asked certain questions,” Cummings said, hinting at the steroid hearings, and lauded Ripken for playing the role model.
Ripken could not be reached at Ripken Baseball or through his publisher.
Ripken received the most Hall of Fame votes for a position player in history (537), and the third-highest percentage (98.5) since Cooperstown inducted its first class in 1936.
But what he means to Baltimore and baseball goes farther than that, Sarbanes said.
“Too often, our sports stars are famous for all the wrong reasons,” Sarbanes said. “But time and again, Cal Ripken Jr. has been a source of pride for baseball.”
The two-time American League Most Valuable Player has been active in his post baseball life, from being named a U.S. Public Diplomacy Envoy to China by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, to starting a youth baseball organization and writing a pair of books.
“When travelers come to visit Baltimore, or pass by on their way to another destination, they will not only be reminded of a terrific ballplayer whose name has become synonymous with the Orioles,” Sarbanes said. “But also a model American and the promise of doing things the ‘Ripken Way’.”