Tri-Cities’ baseball history runs deeper than some may realize. Of course, we all love our Dust Devils and you can still see Tri-City Posse ballcaps in the wild. But once upon a time, there was a fabled Tri-City baseball club that has almost been lost to history.
The Tri-City Atoms were founded in 1950 and played until 1974, undergoing a litany of affiliation changes and name changes. It was when the team signed with the Baltimore Orioles in 1965 that the ballclub committed to the Atoms moniker, a name they had previously used for one lone season in 1961. These Tri-City Atoms would be led by Cal Ripken, Sr. during the 1965 season.
Ripken had two young sons at the time, Cal Jr. and Billy. Because Dad Ripken was a manager who constantly got new assignments, the Ripken family had to move frequently. It was during the 1965 baseball season that the Ripkens lived in the Tri-Cities. In the 1965 Atoms team photo, Cal Jr. and Billy are next to their dad.
Cal Ripken, Jr. could very well have discovered his love for baseball at the age of three while living in the Tri-Cities. I know I was a baseball fan at three, and I idolized Cal. I grew up an Orioles fan, which I am to this day.
We all know the rest of the story. Cal Jr. would go on to become one of the greatest baseball players of all time, surpassing the great Lou Gherig as the ironman of the sport, and securing his first-ballot nod into the Hall of Fame.