MIKE BURKE

Allegany Communications Sports

For two decades it’s been said to be simply a matter of time. From the moment he retired as a player following the 2001 season Orioles fans have clamored for the now-said-to-be iconic Cal Ripken Jr. to ride to the rescue of their beleaguered and woefully mismanaged baseball franchise on his white horse with his legendary baseball acumen in tow and his saddle bags stuffed with gold.

Whether that time is drawing near remains to be seen, but the official call for help has been made.

According to the Baltimore Sun, Major League Baseball has encouraged Ripken Jr. to join an ownership group if the team — now the subject of a bitter dispute among the family of owner Peter Angelos — is sold.

Ripken, 61, a Hall of Famer who holds the MLB record for consecutive games played, is one of the most popular Orioles ever, and MLB had previously expressed interest in Ripken, a special adviser working directly with Commissioner Rob Manfred on youth programs, becoming part of an Orioles ownership or management group if the club was placed on the market.

This time, though, wheels really began to turn in the MLB offices in light of the latest chapter of Family Angelos as a representative told the Sun that Ripken “has been encouraged to be part of a group.”

Ken Griffey Jr. purchased a stake of the Seattle Mariners last year and other conquering hometown heroes have been encouraged to become financially and publicly involved with their former teams as MLB seems to be turning to proven assets of the past to help build waning interest for the present and future in various big-league cities.

While recent attendance in Baltimore has hit historic lows, the idea of Ripken becoming part of ownership for the Orioles, or any big league team (there had been past communications with – egads! — the Washington Nationals about a possible high-end executive position), has been out there since before Ripken even retired as a player. And it’s mainly been out there because Ripken himself put it there during many of his interviews concerning what his post-playing career might bring for him.

Ripken has openly expressed his curiosity for putting his ideas for running an organization to work, given his vast and accomplished background and experiences in the game as well as the business. So this has never been a secret on anybody’s part.

Currently, Ripken maintains his foundation and personal offices in Baltimore and lives in Annapolis; he creates and oversees youth development programs and has owned minor-league teams, including at present the Orioles’ high-A affiliate in his native Aberdeen, the Aberdeen IronBirds.

He is also the owner of Ripken Baseball, which includes three world-class youth baseball facilities, and in 2001, he and his brother Bill Ripken established the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation in memory of their father.

But not so fast. The team is not for sale. At least not yet, which is why members of seemingly potential ownership groups have pretty-much no-commented any talk of a future interest they may or may not have in ownership of the Orioles, including Ripken and including former Orioles president and CEO Larry Lucchino, who was the front man of the planning, development and construction of Camden Yards when he ran the Orioles.

Lucchino and others told the Sun it would not be appropriate to speak on the matter out of respect for owner Peter Angelos’ ongoing illness, the current family feud and for the simplest of facts that the team has not been put on the market.

Louis Angelos, however, contends in his lawsuit that his brother John Angelos, who is the Orioles CEO, has intentions of moving the club to Nashville, while his mother, Georgia Angelos, who has final say in all Angelos estate matters, has wishes to sell the team, but that John’s alleged power steal of the estate, which includes the Orioles, scared off a potential high-quality suitor for the club.

In separate statements issued last week, both John and Georgia Angelos denied Louis’ claims and reiterated their promise that the Orioles will never leave Baltimore.

In the meantime, Orioles Nation continues to turn its lonely eyes to the Ironman.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT