Tim Marchman reminds us not to buy into the Ripken-as-Johnny-Lunchpail claptrap:
It was during [the early 80s days of cocaine and labor strife] that Ripken became a secular saint. Here was a man who stood for old-fashioned American values. Born and raised in Maryland, the son of a humble baseball journeyman, he played for his hometown team and made his name not with the obscene physical talent of a Henderson, but because of his hard work and dedication, best symbolized, of course, by his signature trait Â-- his overwhelming need to just show up for work. No pampered, spoiled athlete he; this was someone with whom any factory worker or policeman or smalltown mortgage broker could identify, someone who just punched the clock every day and tried his hardest, quietly and with pride.
This was, of course, the most ridiculous nonsense it's possible to imagine. Cal Ripken was 6 feet 4 inches, 225 pounds., built like a god, and blessed with enough athleticism that he probably would have been a truly great basketball player. He wasn't the best possible version of David Eckstein or Joe McEwing, but the most physically gifted player in the sport. What made him unique was the overwhelming effect of his personal dedication and discipline on his unparalleled natural gifts; by all accounts, no one worked harder. But the myth of Ripken located his greatness in his will, as if will were sufficient to command the greatest heights of achievement. It isn't.