Umpire attendant Ernie Tyler will voluntarily end his consecutive games streak at 3,769 to see another man known for his ability to show up to work every day: Cal Ripken Jr.You don’t hear about stuff like this very often: people, especially famous ones, who put their money where their mouths are. Some celebrities have been very successful at giving back in very big ways – Oprah, for example, or Paul Newman. Tiger Woods. And good on them for it, too. The Socialist in me approves very strongly of those who understand the importance of returning the favor to those who made them fabulously wealthy in the first place.
Tyler hasn't missed a Baltimore Orioles home game since assuming the position on opening day in 1960. This weekend, however, he will skip the Orioles' two games against the Yankees to be in Cooperstown, N.Y., to see Ripken's induction into the Hall of Fame.
The 83-year-old Tyler will be going as a guest of Ripken, who will pay the bill for the entire weekend.
But generosity in sports is practically unheard of. Most professional athletes seem to be, as a general rule, greedy whores with no qualms about conspicuous consumption and no discipline in their personal behavior. Their “people” seem to be aware of this, so almost everybody has a foundation these days, a sort of social whitewashing. But who really bothers with small acts of kindness? Cal does, and it doesn’t go unnoticed.
"I saw him was he was 12 years old. I knew his father well," Tyler said Thursday. "What better time to do it than to go now? When I heard he wanted me to go to Cooperstown, how could I say no? The streak doesn't mean that much when you're thinking about your relationship with the Ripken family."To hear those words from a guy who’s been around Baltimore baseball since my own father was a kid is a thing of unexpected beauty to me. I hope I am not just saying that because this is about Cal, the Iron Man, he who still shows such love of the job he had, the game that he was able to play for so long, the passion he was able to share with his father and his brother and now more than 700,000 kids around the world.
Tyler can appreciate the irony of having his streak end to see Ripken, who also had the opportunity to determine when to finally sit down.
"If I were ill or got hurt, there might be some remorse," Tyler said. "But under the circumstances, there are no regrets whatsoever. I thought about it for two weeks now, and I'm just overwhelmed and honored to go up there with him."
I am a statistics girl, a baseball wonk who reads box scores like the Bible. Just the word “sabermetrics” gives me a thrill than cannot be described in mere words. I genuinely care about ERA’s and OBP’s and OPS’s, and I work the figures in my head: If the Red Sox are 7½ games ahead now, how many more losses can I bear from the Phillies before I stick my head in the oven?
But sometimes you can’t measure the greatness of a ballplayer by his numbers; sometimes, you need to consider his goodness, too. How does he treat his family, his friends, the umpire attendant who has worked every home game in Baltimore since 1960? How does his hometown newspaper describe him in articles in the week before his induction into Cooperstown? This article in the Baltimore Sun contains just one paragraph about Cal on the field. And it starts with this:
Very rarely in today's society do you find sports personalities who you hope your child can idolize on the playing field and in the game of life. Cal Ripken is one of those stars.Congratulations, Mr. Ripken. You deserve at least that much respect.