Cal Ripken reveals he had prostate cancer

August 20th, 2020

Not even cancer could beat baseball’s Iron Man. Orioles legend and Hall of Fame shortstop was diagnosed with prostate cancer in February, but he's now cancer free after treatment, he revealed to reporters on Thursday.

Ripken, who turns 60 later this month, said he was symptom-free before consulting a urologist as a precaution. The cancer was contained to his prostate and removed via surgery in March. Ripken said he is now fully recovered.

“There was no reason for me to think I had any issues,” Ripken said. “The surgery couldn't have gone better. The outcome couldn’t have gone better, and I have resumed everything I was doing before. It’s been a pretty miraculous few months.”

Upon receiving his diagnosis, Ripken said his first impulse was to call his brother, Billy, the former MLB infielder and current MLB Network analyst. His message was simple: Get your yearly physical. Get blood work. Be diligent. It’s a message he hopes sharing his story publicly helps reach others.

“If you are going to get the news, you want to get it when it’s contained and its early,” Ripken said. “Sometimes we as guys avoid that or think we’ll go to the doctor when we need to. I thought maybe my story, as lucky as it is, could encourage or bring the awareness. You should get checked. You should go to the doctors. You should do all the things necessary to catch this early.”

If Ripken helps someone detect their cancer when its most treatable, he said his story would help “turn a negative experience into a positive one.” It’s a similar sentiment shared by current Orioles star Trey Mancini since he was diagnosed with colon cancer in March. Mancini, 27, has been sidelined this season while undergoing chemotherapy treatment at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. That was where Ripken’s surgery was performed, shortly before the coronavirus began hitting Maryland.

Ripken said seeing COVID-19 overwhelm hospitals in other areas made the decision to get surgery easier. He also shared the mental challenge of receiving what he called the “shocking news” of his diagnosis.

“During that timeframe, you do a lot of thinking inside,” Ripken said. “What is the meaning? It changes your view immediately of what is happening around you. I internalized my feelings and wasn’t sure what to do with them.”

Ripken ranks among the best and most beloved infielders in Major League history. The Maryland native played 21 seasons in the big leagues and won two American League MVP Awards and the 1982 AL Rookie of the Year Award, was selected to 19 All-Star Games, captured eight Silver Slugger Awards and helped lead the Orioles to the '83 World Series title. In Sept. 1995, Ripken surpassed Lou Gehrig for the all-time record in consecutive games played -- a mark he still holds with a total of 2,632 games in a row.

This Sept.6 marks the 25th anniversary of that milestone. The Orioles and Ripken are in talks about how to commemorate the occasion remotely during a season without fans in attendance.

“I am happy to celebrate it any way that we can,” he said. “Baseball can always count on its history to remind people how great the game is.”