One for the Fans

Take heart. There's at least one sports superstar who knows whom he has to thank for his exalted status.

One night last week, Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken stayed at the ballpark past midnight to sign autographs for fans. And this wasn't a one-time show. Mr. Ripken has been going out of his way to accommodate fans ever since spring training.

The Orioles star, who is on the verge of breaking Lou Gehrig's record of playing in 2,130 consecutive games, goes about this the old-fashioned way.

The fans line up, and the ballplayer, with a smile, greets them and signs their baseballs, programs, scraps of paper, whatever, just as they request.

No fees here, no shades of the sad problems that recently engulfed baseball greats Duke Snider and Willy McCovey. They got paid thousands for autographs and neglected to give Uncle Sam his share.

Ripken's generosity antidotes other recent scenes from baseball as well - players cursing at fans and making rude gestures.

Other athletes should follow his lead. It may still be possible to salvage some human warmth and fun from the business of big-time sports.

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