Friday, April 27, 2012

1988 DONRUSS RIPKEN BASEBALL FAMILY

THE FIRST FAMILY OF BALTIMORE.

THESE BACKS ARE JUST PLAIN, UM, PLAIN. 

THE FRONT PAGE

  • I remember getting this card from a pack in '88 and being instantly smitten. This card reminded me you can sometimes pull surprises from packs.

THE BACK PAGE

  • It took Donruss a long time to finally dress up the backs of their cards, and certainly in '88 it still considered the obverse to be unimportant.
  • The write-up is decent, and Senior is still the only field boss to manage two sons in the majors at the same time.

PHOTO PLAY

  • This card reminds me of the 1967 Topps The Champs card. If Donruss copied that idea, then Topps copied Donruss' hideous design two years later.

EXTRA, EXTRA

  • Senior, who took over in '87 after Earl Weaver's second stint as manager, got a raw deal in '88, getting fired after an 0-6 start. Six games in and you fire your manager, a loyal foot soldier who gave his soul to the organization and spent 13 years managing in the minors? What the hell? I still can't wrap my head around that move. 
  • The firing really motivated the Birds: They went on to lose the next 15. When they reached 0-14, they established a major-league record for consecutive losses to start a season. 
  • To show what a class company man he was, Senior remained with O's, becoming the third-base coach. 
  • However painful the firing of his dad must have been to Cal Ripken Jr., I think the O's averted a total meltdown of their franchise player by making Frank Robinson the manager, a Hall of Famer whom Junior respected. I think had the team brought in anyone else, he would've eventually bolted as a free agent.
  • Senior had very little talent to work with, especially on the mound, and he compiled a 68-101 record. He was a big part of teaching "The Oriole Way'' brand of baseball that was so successful for so long. All told, he spent 36 years in the organization that also included stints as a player and scout.

THE WORST OF TIMES.
  • Senior's career came to an end when he was fired as third-base coach after the '92 season. 
  • I think everyone knows about the career Junior had, establishing a consecutive-games played streak at 2,632 that won't be broken, among other notable batting and fielding accomplishments. In '87, he hit 27 homers and drove in 98.
  • Billy Ripken had few on-the-field highlights but he will be remembered for a couple of things. One, a certain '89 Fleer "Fuck Face'' error card and the May 2, 1988, Sports Illustrated cover photo.
  • The younger Rip was a good-field, no-hit second baseman. In his 12-year career, he hit .247 and got on base only 29.4 percent of the time. In his first year in '87, Billy hit .308 in 234 at-bats with two homers and 20 RBI. 
  • When I'd go to Sarasota in the '90s to watch the Orioles train for the first couple of weeks at Twin Lakes Park, I'd always see Senior walking with purpose to and from all the fields, carrying a fungo bat in one hand and cupping a butt in the other. Dude was all business all the time. I never saw him smile. If my dad would've been a baseball lifer, I think he would've operated the same way. 
  • The pathetic '88 season actually brought me closer to my favorite team. I felt sorry for the players and city and wanted to show my undying support. I wore my authentic white-paneled O's cap just about everywhere that year. When they were amid the streak, numerous people would point and laugh at me. That just toughened my resolve, and it certainly made the pennant chase of '89 much sweeter.


TWENTY-ONE YEARS BEFORE ...

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