How Gwynn, Ripken came to be great
Hall of Famers' brothers discuss the value of family in baseball
Chris Gywnn says he will never forget the telephone call he received on Tuesday morning from his older brother, Tony.
"Tony told me he had been elected to the Hall of Fame," recalled Chris. "He talked about our dad and what he meant to us. It was very emotional."
The emotion was just as strong in another part of the country on Tuesday as Cal Ripken Jr., also just elected to the Hall of Fame, listened to his brother, Billy, on a radio show talking about their father and his guidance. Cal acknowledged tears came to his eyes as he listened to his brother's comments.
The story of Ripken Jr. and Gwynn being the newest members of the Hall of Fame is a story that goes beyond the statistics and records of two of the game's greatest players of all time.
It is a story of the guidance and influence of fathers and the relationship of brothers who shared a dream of playing in the Major Leagues and made that dream come true.
It is the story of playing the game with a burning passion to be the very best you can be. It is the story of loyalty to a team and, most importantly, the recognition of the importance of family life. It is also a story of reaching out to help others.
No two people understand the achievements of Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. better than their younger brothers, Chris and Billy, respectively.
They understand their remarkable achievements because they, too, had their own 10-plus Major League careers, and thus had a full appreciation of the talent and dedication that is required to be a Hall of Fame player.
"When I think of Tony making the Hall of Fame, I can't help but think of our Dad and what he meant to us and the guidance he provided," said Chris. "I also can't help but think of the remarkable ability Tony had to hit a baseball. No one worked harder, but no one did it any better."
Charles Gwynn Sr. stressed the importance of dedication and character to his sons, said Chris, and often spoke of the examples provided by former Dodgers great Jackie Robinson.
The senior Gwynn passed away in 1994, but not before he had seen both of his sons reach the Major Leagues -- Tony with the San Diego Padres in 1982 and Chris with the Los Angeles Dodgers five years later.
"When I was with the Dodgers and we were playing the Padres, we would have pregame meetings, but they never would ask me about how to pitch to Tony and he seemed to kill us," recalled Chris. "Finally, one day they asked, and by this time, I replied: 'Why not throw the ball down the middle and let him decide what to do with it.'"
The contributions to baseball and to the Orioles by Cal Ripken Sr. have been well documented. He spent 36 years in the Orioles organization as a player, coach, scout and manager.
"My dad instilled the characteristics in me that helped me become a great baseball player," Ripken Jr. said of his late father.
When the senior Ripken became the manager of the Orioles in 1987, his double-play combination during the later part of the season featured Billy at second base and Cal Jr. at shortstop.
Billy played seven seasons with the Orioles and acknowledged that he watched in amazement his brother Cal's remarkable streak of 2,632 consecutive games.
When Cal suggested that his record would inevitability be broken, Billy responded with a brother's pride: "No one has what Cal has. That record will never fall."
The Ripken family formed the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation in 2001 in memory of Cal Sr., with the goal of providing baseball and softball programs to underprivileged children while helping inspire children to be the best they can be and to reach their dreams.
Both Cal Jr. and Billy are active in the work of the foundation and are also partners in the ownership of several Minor League teams.
Both Tony and Chris Gwynn remain active in baseball, with Tony serving as the baseball coach at San Diego State University and Chris working as a pro scout for the Padres.
Tony and his wife, Alicia, have formed a non-profit organization in their names to provide funding for charitable institutions that focus on programs that benefit underprivileged children.
When Ripken and Gwynn are officially inducted into the Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., on July 29th there will be attention given to remarkable records about consecutive games played and amazing hitting achievements, but there will be much more to the celebration.
It will be a celebration about the guidance of parents, the dreams shared by brothers and the importance of strong families.
It will be a proud day for baseball and those who care about the game for all of the right reasons.
There will be two men being honored and fathers everywhere can turn to their sons and point to examples of how to play a game and how to conduct a life.
Fred Claire was a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers from 1969-98, serving the team as executive vice president and general manager. His book "Fred Claire: My 30 Years in Dodger Blue" was published by SportsPublishing LLC. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.