2002 Season

Ripken helps team retire No. 3
Charlotte Observer

KANNAPOLIS, N.C. (May 16, 2002)
Baseball and NASCAR fans cheered together at Wednesday night's Kannapolis Intimidators game as baseball great Cal Ripken Jr. presented Dale Earnhardt's family with retired Intimidators jerseys bearing the number 3.

Cal Ripken Jr. presents the retired No. 3 jersey to Teresa Earnhardt as Kannapolis Intimidators assistant general manager Jamie Pruitt holds up the framed jersey in honor of Dale Earnhardt.

In a pregame ceremony at Fieldcrest Cannon Stadium, Martha, Teresa, Kerry and Kelley Earnhardt -- Dale Earnhardt's mother and widow and two of his children -- sat on chairs in the infield and listened to Ripken talk about the legendary racer, who died in a crash during the Daytona 500 Feb. 18, 2001.

Earnhardt was part-owner of the Intimidators, a Class AA team in the South Atlantic League.

"When you watched him, first and foremost, here was a guy who was the fiercest of competitors. ... No one competed harder than Dale," said Ripken, who got a standing ovation when he stepped to the podium. "He loved his sport and represented his sport in the highest fashion. He loved his family. He loved his fans."

Ripken, who has been visiting minor-league stadiums since he bought the Utica Blue Sox in February, unveiled two black-and-white jerseys and presented them to Martha and Teresa Earnhardt. Martha Earnhardt hugged him.

The brief ceremony before the Intimidators faced the Hagerstown Suns drew a mix of locals and visitors in town for The Winston all-star race this weekend. The stadium was nearly full as four U.S. Army Special Operations parachuters flew in with No. 3 flags.

Between the end of the ceremony and the first pitch -- thrown by the Earnhardt daughters and caught by Ripken -- Ripken posed with fans and signed autographs.

Still, several fans said Ripken, a member of the Charlotte O's in 1980, wasn't the main draw.

"I'm more excited to see the Earnhardts than Cal," said Kathy Schultz of Maryland, who came with her son and his father.

At the start of his speech, Ripken acknowledged the night wasn't only about baseball.

"I feel a little out of place tonight," he said. "I'm not really the biggest NASCAR fan, even though I'm fast becoming one."



T h e   E a r n h a r d t   C o n n e c t i o n
Home Page  |  Contact Us