BALTIMORE – Cal Ripken Jr. said Friday that his family and the police were still searching for answers about the kidnapping of his mother last week, a crime he called both bizarre and unsettling.
The Hall of Fame infielder, speaking publicly for the first time about the abduction, said he doesn't know why his 74-year-old mother, Vi, was kidnapped at gunpoint from her home outside Baltimore, blindfolded and driven around for nearly 24 hours. She was found unharmed in her car early the next morning, near her home.
He said there's reason to believe the kidnapping was planned in advance, but he said he can't be sure and doesn't know why she was targeted.
"It's bizarre in many ways," he said.
Investigators say there was no ransom demand, and the elder Ripken has said her abductor appeared not to know that she was the mother of the retired Baltimore Oriole who owns baseball's record for most consecutive games played. Police have said little about the investigation but have released a sketch of a suspect and video surveillance footage pulled from a store.
Ripken said the experience has rattled the otherwise tough woman, known for years as the matriarch of the famous baseball family. She has been "talking nonstop" about the kidnapping but remains too shaken up to return to the home in Aberdeen where she and her husband, Cal Sr., raised four children. She is staying with family.
Still, she's continuing to attend her granddaughter's sports games, visit the beauty parlor and can still be seen in the stands for home games of the Single-A Ironbirds, a minor league club in Aberdeen owned by Cal Ripken.
"Mom, by and large, is a tough, strong woman. She's been able to endure this," Ripken said.
He fielded questions inside the B&O Warehouse at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, where he manned shortstop and third base for the final stretch of his career. Known for a lunch-pail work ethic and a steady, unflappable approach to the game, the athlete who earned the moniker "Iron Man" for playing in 2,632 consecutive appeared to choke up as he described the night he learned his mother was missing.
He was told the police had received a report of a car with his mother's tags on it, with a woman tied up in the back seat. Ripken said he drove around looking for his mother, unsure where she was or what had happened to her.
"It was," he said, "a horrible night."
The Ripken family holds deep ties to Maryland's baseball community. Vi Ripken has long been regarded as a fixture in her Maryland community — a woman committed to raising her children and fostering their athletic ambitions as her husband, Cal Ripken Sr., steeped himself in a decades-long career in the minor and major leagues. Cal Ripken Sr. was known for a tough-as-nails, steely approach to the game and for preaching the "Oriole Way," a system that valued fundamentals and professionalism. He managed both Cal and another son, Bill, for a time.
Although Ripken has made countless public appearances, including speaking at his Hall of Fame induction ceremony in 2007, he acknowledged that Friday was different. He said he mostly wanted to ask for the public's help in finding the kidnapper and in assuring his family's supporters, many of whom know his mother as "just Vi," was doing OK.
"This is very uncomfortable, no doubt about it," Ripken said. "The set of circumstances that has me before you doesn't feel good. "