COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. (AP) — When they played, Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn epitomized all that was good about baseball. And now as Hall of Famers, nothing has changed.
When they entered baseball’s shrine on Sunday, the two were saluted as much for their remarkable careers as the character they have always displayed away from the field, greeted by a record crowd estimated at 75,000 that included Commissioner Bud Selig.
Ripken and Gwynn were awestruck.
“I was intimidated looking out at that many people,” Ripken said. “I got real quiet. I just kept looking at it and I was amazed, overwhelmed. So many people. It makes you feel really good that people will trek all the way up from their homes to share this tribute.”
“I didn’t know if I was going to be able to handle it or not,” Gwynn said.
A continent away, a different scene unfolded. Barry Bonds failed to tie the home run record of Hank Aaron, a chase tainted by his surly nature and a steroids investigation.
It was a poignant counterpoint to a memorable, emotional induction day.
“My dad used to say if you take care of all the little things, you’ll never have a big thing to worry about,” said Ripken, who spent his 21-year career in Baltimore and made his mark by playing 2,632 consecutive games to break Lou Gehrig’s record of 2,130. “As the years passed, it became clear to me that kids see it all, and it’s not just some of your actions that influence, it’s all of them. Whether we like it or not, as big leaguers we’re role models. The only question is, will it be positive or will it be negative?