Hearing that Ray Lewis was retiring reminded me of Cal Ripken. The two Baltimore sports icons of this generation are very different and very much the same.
Personality-wise, they’re different. Lewis likes to loudly and forcefully exhort his teammates. Ripken preferred quiet counsel.
Lewis runs on the field and dances. Ripken strolled to the plate.
Both were Baltimore superstars who played their entire careers here, and neither ever tried too hard to leave.
You couldn’t picture Lewis playing for the Carolina Panthers or Ripken for the Houston Astros.
They had a burning desire to win. They just showed it differently.
Both wanted to watch their sons play their father’s sport. In retirement, Lewis wants to watch his son play football at his school, Miami. Ripken has further delayed an entrance back to major league baseball to watch his son play baseball at South Carolina.
Both are unique. Lewis for his ferocious play, Ripken for his stubborn refusal to miss a game.
Neither was a top draft choice, Lewis taken in the latter stages of the first round while Ripken had to wait until the second round.
Lewis has made tapes encouraging the Orioles. Ripken has enjoyed watching Lewis from his suite at M&T Bank Stadium.
They both had special years in 2001. Lewis won the Super Bowl in January while Ripken ended his career in October.
Now, Lewis joins Ripken in retirement. For six years, fans got to watch both simultaneously, and with Lewis’ departure, the hunt for the next Baltimore superstar deepens.
Both are all-time greats, and Baltimore fans who watched them know there aren’t many like them.