Ripken to appear at museum
By KEITH NIEBUHR and BRANT JAMES
HERNANDO -- Baseball's iron man is set to make an appearance in Citrus County.
Cal Ripken Jr., who retired last year after 21 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles and holds the major-league record for consecutive games played, has told organizers he plans to attend the ninth annual Ted Williams Museum and Hitters Hall of Fame induction ceremony Feb. 17.
"This is big stuff," museum executive director John Kriston said.
Ripken is best known for playing in 2,632 straight games, which broke the record of 2,130 held by Lou Gehrig.
Ripken finished his career with 3,184 hits and 431 home runs, and twice earned American League MVP honors. He is one of seven players with at least 400 homers and 3,000 or more hits.
While numbers are the ultimate historical register for any player, Ripken's career was about more than statistics. He endeared himself to fans as a piece of living nostalgia, playing his entire career with one team -- at one time in the same infield with his younger brother, Billy, on a club managed by his father and namesake.
One of Ripken's lasting contributions will be his run at Gehrig's mark, but not simply because he broke a record. A season after fans were left embittered by a strike that wiped out the World Series, Ripken helped draw them back with a summer's pursuit of a supposedly unbreakable mark.
Ripken is not the only star headed to the Hall.
Dwight Evans, Jason Giambi, Derek Jeter, Al Kaline, Don Mattingly, Gaylord Perry, Albert Pujols, Enos Slaughter, Alfonso Soriano and Virgil Trucks also are being honored. Each plans to attend. Additionally, the late Roger Maris will be honored, with his widow, Pat, accepting his award.
Williams, a Hernando resident, hand-picks all winners.
"This is one hell of a lineup," Kriston said. "There's a lot of baseball history there.
"We think they're all pretty good lineups, so it's hard to compare them because they're all great players as far as Ted is concerned. But there's no question this year is special."
The 83-year-old Williams was unable to attend last year's event because he was recovering from heart surgery at a New York hospital.
"We're hopeful he can make it," Kriston said. "He's at home right now, and he's excited about it and excited to hopefully get to spend some time with these award winners."
General admission tickets are $35, and VIP seating is $75. For information, call 527-6566.
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