Bizarre Baseball Culture: Cal Ripken orders the 2001 Yankees to Save The World

In Bizarre Baseball Culture, I take a look at some of the more unusual places where baseball has reared it’s head in pop culture and fiction.

Wolverine of the X-Men has a habit of appearing in comics he technically isn’t supposed to be in, simply because he’s popular. Well, Cal Ripken is the Wolverine of Baseball Comic Books.  He’s joined forces with Batman, led the Shortstop Squad, and been the subject of a bio-comic. Also, like Wolverine, Cal Ripken seemed to be able to recover from any injury, no matter how severe. But, it’s the first similarity that I’m focusing on, because, in the comic I will be looking at today, Cal Ripken appears in a story about the 2001 New York Yankees being Superheroes.

Let that sink in. The New York Yankees, in a comic that they themselves ordered and gave away, still had Cal Ripken in their comic and had him on the cover too.


Entitled “Championship Challenge” and given out September 28, 2001, it stars, as you can see, four of the greatest stars the Yankees had that season. Mariano Rivera! Tino Martinez! Jorge Posada! And, of course, the Once and Future Captain, Derek Jeter himself. But, of course, we also see Cal RIpken on the cover, letting everybody know that the Iron Man will be there! With such Ultimate Sports Force stalwarts as Rick Licht writing and Brian Kong doing the art, this was partially made as part of the Ripken farewell celebration, and it becomes even more obvious when you realize that originally Ripken’s final series would have been at Yankee Stadium if not for the schedule reshuffling that MLB did after the 9/11 attacks.

Anyway, go below the jump to read about the story:

Continue reading

This is how Mariano Rivera’s final year will be remembered

Cal Ripken went hitless in his final game. In fact, with some rare exceptions like Ted Williams, most baseball greats go out quietly. It isn’t a surprise, really, since most of the time they are retiring for the good reason they don’t have what it takes to be a good everyday player anymore.

Which is why last night’s All-Star Game was important. Much like with Ripken in 2001’s All-Star Game, it allowed us, as a baseball culture, to say goodbye to Mariano Rivera. Oh, he will pitch again, probably many times. There’s even a chance he could still have more chances to close out a game in October. But none of them will be as perfect as last night: there he stood, alone, just him and his catcher (the highly underrated Salvador Perez of the Royals) with both fans and opponents giving him a round of applause for the finest career a reliever has ever had.

And then, of course, he put down all three batters he faced, 1-2-3. No hits, runs or walks allowed.

Yes, it wasn’t perfect- he came out and pitched in the 8th inning, as Jim Leyland took an abundance of caution to make sure he played in the game (although I highly doubt that a bullpen that had Joe Nathan, Jesse Crain and Glen Perkins in it would have given up a 3-run lead). But in some ways, it was fitting, a passing of the torch from Rivera to Nathan and the other closers, young and old, who hold the role that Mariano has defined: the near-invincible 9th inning guy.

Of course, it is unlikely that we will see another player like Mariano again. The increased parity of baseball makes it unlikely that anybody will ever be able to have as many World Series saves, since it’s unlikely that a team will so dominate baseball again like the Yankees of the late 90s did. It’s also unlikely that anybody will ever be able to truly throw the cutter as well as Mariano Rivera– if they could, they’d probably have shown up by now. But the real reason why we won’t see another Rivera is simple: he, like Ripken, is a almost singular icon, not so much a man as he is an ideal.

“This is what we wish all our athletes could be like,” we say, “intimidating but friendly, ruthless on the field but charitable off it, respectful of the game’s history even as they make it themselves” 

And although there may one day be another closer like that, perhaps one even more dominating than Rivera, it likely won’t matter, for our nostalgia will have made the last man to wear Number 42 just as untouchable in our minds as the most famous man to wear number 42.

And last night proved it, and gave fans of every team a chance to show it.

“Wait, Mo, don’t go!”

Not many players are sad to see Mariano Rivera retire- at least, not many outside of players who call the Bronx home, but maybe these players are less happy than others- since they have the best Batting Averages of active (Omar Vizquel is counted by Baseball Reference as active since the 2013 season hasn’t started without him yet) players against Rivera, with a minimum of 10 plate appearances (counting both regular season and playoffs).

Paul Konerko 14 12 5 1 3 1 0 .417 .429 .667 1.095
Jason Kubel 13 12 5 1 4 1 4 .417 .462 .667 1.128
Aubrey Huff 21 20 8 2 4 1 5 .400 .429 .800 1.229
Ichiro Suzuki 16 15 6 1 2 1 1 .400 .438 .667 1.104
Carl Crawford 23 22 8 1 2 0 5 .364 .364 .545 .909
Brian Roberts 18 17 6 0 2 1 2 .353 .389 .471 .859
Bobby Abreu 10 9 3 1 2 1 2 .333 .400 .667 1.067
David Ortiz 35 33 11 1 4 2 5 .333 .371 .515 .887
Alex Rodriguez 16 12 4 0 1 3 2 .333 .438 .417 .854
Omar Vizquel 18 18 6 0 3 0 0 .333 .333 .333 .667
Kevin Youkilis 15 12 4 0 1 0 2 .333 .467 .333 .800
Michael Young 25 25 8 0 3 0 4 .320 .320 .360 .680
Nick Markakis 20 19 6 0 0 1 4 .316 .350 .421 .771
Vernon Wells 21 19 6 1 3 2 1 .316 .381 .632 1.013
Joe Mauer 13 13 4 0 1 0 2 .308 .308 .308 .615
Ramon Hernandez 21 20 6 0 1 1 3 .300 .333 .350 .683
Ian Kinsler 10 10 3 0 1 0 6 .300 .300 .500 .800
Casey Kotchman 11 10 3 0 1 0 2 .300 .300 .300 .600
Provided by View Play Index Tool Used
Generated 3/10/2013.