By Paul Gessler

ABERDEEN, Md. (WJZ/AP) — Vi Ripken, the matriarch of the famed Orioles family that includes Hall of Fame son Cal Ripken Jr. and once the victim of a bizarre kidnapping, has died. She was 82.

Family spokesman John Maroon said Sunday that she died on Friday, a day before her birthday, in Aberdeen, where a youth stadium carries the Ripken name.

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Violet and Cal Ripken Sr. married in 1957, and he spent four decades in the Baltimore system as a player, minor league coach and manager. He managed the Orioles in 1987 and early 1988, when sons Cal Jr. and Billy played infield for him.

Insomuch as a family can be royalty, the Ripkens were in Harford County, and Vi was their queen. She was involved for many years in local and charitable organizations in the Maryland area.

“Her heart is in kids in Harford County,” said Cheryl Davis Kohl with the Harford County Boys and Girls Club.

The family’s name adorns the professional baseball stadium and Vi’s name is on the Boys and Girls Club’s field.

“Without Vi, there wouldn’t be a Boys and Girls Club,” Jerry Lacey from the club said.

The charter member of the club, Vi served on its board for more than 20 years.

“The Boys and Girls Clubs of Harford are Vi Ripken. She was our lifeblood,” Derek DeWitt said.

Lacey called her the group’s moral compass.

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She was also a fixture at Orioles games and her son Cal Jr.’s milestones, even throwing out the first pitch at his final game. She kept her arm loose for first pitches at Aberdeen Ironbirds games and Cal Ripken World Series youth baseball tournaments as well.

In 2012, police said she was kidnapped at gunpoint at her home in Aberdeen and driven around blindfolded by her abductor. She was found bound and unharmed about 24 hours later in her car near her home. The case was never solved.

The Orioles released a statement later Sunday night, as did the Ravens.

“We are deeply saddened to learn about the passing of Vi Ripken,” the Baltimore Ravens said in a statement. “The Ripkens are engrained in the fabric of the greater Baltimore community, and Vi played a significant role in helping establish their family’s strong legacy. We extend our heartfelt condolences to her children and grandchildren during this sorrowful time.”

In a statement Monday, the Ripken family thanked the community for its support.

“Mom was an incredible woman who touched so many people throughout her lifetime,” the statement read in part. “The void that she leaves in our lives cannot be filled but what she gave us has shaped who we are today and our memories of her will last the rest of our lives.”

She is survived by sons Cal Jr., Billy and Fred and daughter Elly. Grandson Ryan Ripken, a minor leaguer in the Baltimore system, played Sunday in the Orioles’ exhibition game against Pittsburgh.

Cal Sr. died in 1999.
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Editor’s note: This story was first published on February 28, 2021.

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Paul Gessler