Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Iron Man Ripken Just Keeps Going

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Iron Man Ripken Just Keeps Going

Article excerpt

One of journalism's basic tasks is to shatter icons and challenge heroes. So it was not in the least bit surprising that The New York Times splashed a big story at the bottom of page one on Wednesday asking: Should Cal Ripken end his streak?

For the few dozen Americans who have managed to avoid this story, Cal Ripken is the man who broke the one record all baseball fans thought would stand forever. On Sept. 6, 1995, Ripken played in his 2,131st consecutive game, beating the mark established by Lou Gehrig, one of the most admirable figures baseball has produced.

Ripken then just kept on playing, hitting 2,473 games when The New York Times piece was written. The problem is that Ripken is clearly hurting - his back is giving him problems, his batting average in recent games has collapsed, he's not as sharp as he once was. The question roiling baseball fans is: Should he finally sit down and take a rest for the sake of his team? The question matters to more than baseball fans because Ripken has come to play an exceptional role in the country's day-to-day discourse about morals and ethics. Sports heroes are always important to kids, of course, which is why we periodically have debates over whether this or that player is being a proper "role model." But the virtues Ripken embodies are unusual for being so old-fashioned and unflashy. He is about excellence, yes, but also about persistence. As his autobiography makes clear, he is as passionate about winning as anyone. Winning is not just a means to an end for Ripken. It's an end in itself. But Ripken's approach to winning is not to look for the one great moment - the business equivalent of spectacular earnings for one quarter. It's to practice and practice and practice and make small, steady improvements: to figure out the proper correction in his batting stance or the best way to shave a split second off the throw across the diamond from third to first. For this reason, Ripken is hero to every parent within a few hundred miles of Baltimore. The lessons Cal teaches - he's always Cal in those kitchen table conversations - are the hardest ones to teach in this particular age. …

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