Old Wives' Tales
Radio & TV
Toxin du jour
Claim: Actor Kevin Costner was caught in bed with the wife of Orioles infielder Cal Ripken, Jr. in August 1997, forcing the Orioles to cancel a game so that the distraught Ripken's consecutive-game streak would not be in jeopardy.
Example: [Collected via e-mail, 2001]
Variations: In some versions Ripken fails to appear for the day's scheduled game because he is too distraught to play; in others he misses showing up for the game because he's gone to a hospital emergency room (apparently having received worse injuries than the person he "beat the crap" out of).
One of the most remarkable aspects of Ripken's most remarkable of streaks was that he started every game (i.e., no pinch-hitting, pinch-running, or late-inning defensive substitution appearances), voluntarily left a game before the seventh inning only four times (he was also ejected twice by umpires), and at one point played every single inning of every single game for over five years. In other words, Ripken didn't even come close to missing a game during his
Ripken himself addressed the rumor in a 2008 interview on NPR:
It's easy to check the facts of that one. I remember it very well. The bank of lights went off and Randy Johnson was pitching for the Seattle Mariners. And we were deciding what to do about that. Was there enough visible light out there to actually see a guy throwing over 100 miles per hour? The bank was just over our dugout. And I physically went out and tested it for the umpire. I was in discussion with the umpires. I was definitely there, I was ready to play. And the funny part about it was we all decided it was better that we play that night, because the next day would have been a Sunday day game, and Randy Johnson would have been throwing out of of the stands, and in day games he's much harder to see. So we all decided that we were going to go. Evidently [Mariners manager] Lou Piniella told Seattle a little different story that the game wasn't going to go, and they started leaving the ballpark, so we didn't have that option after all. We scheduled it for the next day, and we played. But I definitely was there. And I'm sure I was on camera a number of times being out on the field."Whether the electrical outage was "mysterious" or not, it wasn't concocted to keep Ripken's streak alive by forcing the cancellation of a game he would otherwise have missed. News reports of the day's events prove Ripken was present at the ballpark, suited up and ready to play; both fans and reporters noted him sitting in the dugout and playing catch along the sidelines that evening. This current legend is simply a recycling of a three-year-old tale someone concocted based on a long-standing friendship between Ripken and actor Kevin Costner, some four-year-old rumors of the Ripkens' having marital difficulties, and the unusual cancellation of a game due to lighting problems.
Actor Kevin Costner and Cal Ripken, Jr. met in 1990 at a premiere of Costner's film Dances with Wolves and began what Costner described as a "burgeoning friendship." Before a game during the 1991 season, Costner took batting and fielding practice with the Orioles, played catch on the sidelines, went through stretching exercises in the outfield, and batted and took grounders with Ripken. Costner was often seen taking in Orioles games from the stands at Baltimore's Camden Yards, sometimes sitting with Ripken's wife, Kelly. In late 1997, rumors began circulating that the Ripkens had separated, Cal was staying with a teammate, and a divorce was imminent. The rumors included claims of infidelities on both sides, with the male interloper named as anyone from "an Orioles trainer" to Costner (who at the time lived about an hour from the Ripken ranch). From such rumors was the "mysterious game cancellation" legend concocted back in 1998.
The Ripkens are still married, and we have no idea what (if any) relationship existed between Kevin Costner and Kelly Ripken. When this legend was repeated by a couple of hosts on Fox Sports Radio in June 2001, an angry Costner called the show the next day to deny it and tell the hosts that if they had claimed the story was true, "I was going to take your heads off." Costner maintained that he has met Ripken's wife only twice in his life, that he has probably spent no more than
Last updated: 19 January 2009
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