Modern-Day Lindbergh or Media Myth?
Like a rock
For days and weeks on either side of those magical 22
minutes frozen in time, the scion of the industrial age --
advertising -- insidiously spread its false promise on the Ripken
proceedings. George Lipsitz's "Time Passages" and David Potter's
"People of Plenty" tell the story of how the industrial
revolution spawned a surplus of goods, which in turn gave birth
to market research and the modern advertising industry. Now
everyone knows that Cal Ripken Jr. is no Jim Palmer when it comes
to pitching -- sales pitching, that is -- but advertisers know a
good image when they see one. After all, more than 6 million
cable TV subscribers around the nation tuned in Sept. 6 to see
Cal break the record, giving ESPN its largest baseball audience
ever, and its third-highest ratings for any program apart from
NFL football. Once, Ripken had been nicknamed "Cal-cium" because
he was so wholesome and milquetoast that the only national ad
contract he could get was for milk. But suddenly he became the
face or name (but seldom the voice) behind ads for Chevy pickup
trucks ("Like a rock"), Nike shoes ("Just do it 2,131 times"),
Starter athletic wear and several other products that sought to
trade on his myth or symbolism.
In rare moments, Ripken himself got caught up in the
videodrone. During the fifth inning of the Orioles' game on
Labor Day (the closest game to the record-breaker for which I
could get tickets), an infield practice grounder from the first
baseman skittered right past Ripken as he watched the 2,129
banner unfurl via the scoreboard's "Jumbotron" video screen. And
after game 2,130, poignant appearances by one-time Gehrig
teammate Joe DiMaggio and home run king Hank Aaron were
insultingly juxtaposed with on-field visits by actor Tom Selleck
and some unknown from the soap opera "The Young and the
Restless," reputed to be one of Ripken's favorite TV shows.
Perhaps so, but Ripken looked far more embarrassed than bemused
when the actor's visit was prefaced by the Jumbotron's display of
a "Y & R" scene customized to congratulate him.
Ripken index page.