- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 6, 2001

BALTIMORE — When Cal Ripken leaves the field for the last time after tonight's season finale, he will leave behind a lot of special relationships. None, perhaps, may be as special as the one between two baseball families the Ripkens and the Tylers.

A lot of people have come and gone in the organization since Cal made his major league debut in 1981, but the Tyler family was there when he began and will be there tonight at the end.

Every time Cal Jr. has come up to bat at Memorial Stadium and Camden Yards, Ernie Tyler has been there near him, sitting on his stool near the third base dugout in his job as the umpires' attendant. Every time.

It was Jimmy Tyler the Orioles' clubhouse manager who picked out No.8 for Ripken and, for the past 21 years, has made sure that Ripken's uniform has been hung in his locker, ready for play.

And back when Cal was a high school baseball star, his chief competition as shortstop in Harford County was Fred Tyler now the visiting clubhouse manager at Camden Yards.

The Ripkens the late Cal Sr., and sons Cal Jr. and Billy have always been identified as the Orioles' baseball family to the public. But in and around the ballpark, the family most identified with the Orioles are the Tylers. Cal acknowledged that in a news conference yesterday between games of the day-night doubleheader against the Boston Red Sox.

"When you think of Orioles baseball, you think of the Tylers," Cal said. "They have been a fixture in Orioles baseball, and I've got to know them really well."

The relationship between Cal Jr. and the Tylers goes well beyond their days at Memorial Stadium and Camden Yards. Its roots are in the friendship between Cal Sr., and Jimmy Tyler, who has been with the organization for 40 years, in the major and minor leagues, as a clubhouse and equipment manager.

Jimmy Tyler has known Cal Jr. since he was a little boy. When Cal Sr. would drive north from Florida in the fall after the Orioles' instructional league camp ended, he would drive with Jimmy Tyler, in two cars, with Jimmy driving the Orioles' station wagon with "The Baltimore Orioles" painted on the side. Sometimes the kids would switch cars and ride with Jimmy, and Cal Jr. wrote in his book, "The Only Way I Know," that "it was a kick to ride with Jimmy part of the way."

Jimmy Tyler, 53, has seen that little boy turn into a Hall of Fame player and now is there to watch the end of Cal's career. It is not an easy time for Jimmy, and he didn't want to talk yesterday.

On the other side of the field, 40-year-old Fred Tyler has worked as the visiting clubhouse manager since 1984 and with the organization since he was a teen-ager. He talked about the connection his older brother, Jimmy, had with Cal Sr., dating back to their days in the minor league system, and how deep the relationship runs between the Ripkens and the Tylers.

"Cal Sr., taught Jimmy everything," Fred said. "They built fields together down in Miami at the minor league complex where the Orioles used to train. Jimmy would tell me stories about how they would be out until 11 p.m., just digging and digging, and [Cal Sr.] would say, 'We'll just turn the lights on the tractor and dig a little more, because we've got to get it done.'

"I'm sure this is hard for Jimmy, but it's hard for a lot of people," Fred Tyler said. "[Cal Jr.] has been here so long and has been one of the most awesome people to work with. He would go out of his way for you. To work with people like that, it's a dream come true."

Fred Tyler has a particular connection with Cal Jr. on the field. They played high school baseball against each other in Harford County, and one local paper actually named Fred as the All-County shortstop over Cal, who pitched and played shortstop at Aberdeen High School when Fred was a star shortstop and second baseman there.

"There were two papers up in Harford County," Fred recalled. "I was the All-County shortstop in one of them, and I was the All-County second baseman in the other. Cal was the All-County pitcher in one of them and the All-County shortstop in the other.

"He would pretty much dominate the whole game," said Fred Tyler of Cal's high school ball. "When he was pitching, you could pretty much count on getting no runs, and you could count on him hitting the ball hard everywhere on the field, driving in runs. At that time, he threw probably in the mid-80s, and he had a curveball that broke straight down. You really had no chance. Once, in my senior year, I got two hits against him, one was a double and the other was an infield hit. I was a left-handed hitter, and I hit a double down the left-field line."

Ernie Tyler, 77, never played against Cal Jr., but he has a unique connection they share the same work ethic. Ernie has not missed a day at his job on the field since Opening Day 1960. That means he has a consecutive home game streak of 3,319.

"I've been there for every home game he has come to hit, and I used to watch him hit in the batting cage when he was 14 or 15 years old and shagging fly balls in Memorial Stadium," Ernie Tyler said. "It's tough to see it come to an end. At the end of every season, you wonder if you are going to come back next season. We've watched Brooks and Frank and Boog and all those guys go, and we missed them, and we're going to miss Junior, probably for us a lot more because we've known him for so long. It's sad, but everything must come to an end. There's just a special connection there."

It's a connection that again goes back to Cal Sr. "I used to sit in a room in Memorial Stadium way after a game was over with Senior while he would wait for calls from Bluefield or Rochester or wherever Cal happened to be playing in the minors to find out how he did that night," Ernie Tyler said. "[The Ripkens] are the people in baseball that we probably know the best."

In a ceremony on the field before the second game of yesterday's doubleheader, Cal Jr. presented a framed jersey with a special personalized message to five of the people in the organization he has probably known the longest in his career trainer Richie Bancells, traveling secretary Phil Itzoe and the three Tylers. It was a tribute to their friendship and to all they have shared together, from one baseball family to another.

"When you think back, the things that you cherish the most are those friendships, and the time you spend with these people," Cal said. "The Tylers have always been special friends, and it's always been a special relationship."

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