Gwynn, Ripken Jr. deserve to be in the Hall of Fame |

Gwynn, Ripken Jr. deserve to be in the Hall of Fame

Casper's CornerJeff CaspersenGlenwood Springs, CO Colorado

In what has been a horrific sports month – replete with tales of dog cruelty involving Michael Vick, dirty officiating in the NBA and a doping-tarnished Tour de France – a blinding ray of sunshine beamed down on the sports world Sunday.Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. – shining examples of what’s right about baseball – gave sports diehards the chance to flash back to a bygone era.Sunday in hallowed Cooperstown, N.Y., perhaps the greatest hitter in baseball’s recent history – Gwynn – and the game’s most durable player, ever – Ripken – took their rightful places in the Hall of Fame.In the face of the public relations nightmare that is Barry Bonds’ all-time home run record chase – chemically enhanced or not – Gwynn and Ripken’s enshrinement is of refreshing contrast.It’s hard to imagine that either engaged in doping of any kind, particularly Gwynn and his trademark doughy figure. And both seemed to harbor a deep-rooted love for their trade. It’s impossible to think otherwise, with 41 seasons of pro ball spread between them.These guys were human beings. Not prickly and abrasive like some of today’s superstars.They, at the very least, seemed approachable. They still do.And both have given back to the game that gave them so much. So many players don’t realize how lucky they are to play a kids’ game for a living. You get the feeling these guys do.Ripken is the man behind Ripken Baseball, a national network of youth baseball leagues. Gwynn is a coach at his alma mater, San Diego State.Said Ripken during his Sunday induction speech: “We are the ambassadors for the future, just as a baseball player wants to leave his mark on the game and leave it a little better than he found it, we should all try to make this world a better place for the next generation. When I realized I could use baseball to help make life better, especially for my kids, baseball become a platform.”You get the sense Ripken means what he says, even if it’s just me wanting to believe his words are genuine. And that’s the crux of what I’m getting at. These guys could have all the skeletons in the world stacked up in their closets, but you’d never suspect a thing. Ripken and Gwynn never failed to conduct themselves with class and dignity, both on and off the field. The ever convivial Gwynn said it best, speaking to reporters at Sunday’s ceremony in baseball’s Mecca.”The fans felt they could trust us. They could trust how we played the game, especially in this era, that we did it the right way,” he said.Not only were they trustable, but Ripken and Gwynn were a sheer treat to watch. There was nothing better than watching the latter, an obsessive student of the game, thoroughly embarrass big-league pitchers. Or watching the former masterfully man the infield for a major league record 2,632 straight games.Their numbers on the field and dignified personas off of it drew a record crowd of 75,000 to Sunday’s ceremony in Cooperstown. And it couldn’t have been for more deserving Hall of Famers, all-too rare guys who know just lucky they are.”We make a big deal about trying to make good decisions and doing things right, and you know, we are supposed to,” Gwynn said in his speech. “That is what they pay us for. … When you sign your name on a dotted line, there’s more than just playing the game of baseball. I think if you look out here today, you see all these people out here today, they love the game, too, and there’s a responsibility when you put that uniform on that those people, the people who pay to go watch you play, you’re responsible, you’ve got to make good decisions and show people how things are supposed to be done.”Contact Jeff Caspersen at 384-9123

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