1991 was a fine, fine year for Cal Ripken. It was the greatest season of his career, and some say it was one of the best seasons ever. He was so good during the regular season that he won the MVP award in a landslide despite the fact that the Orioles finished in 6th place in the AL East with a 67-95 record. That year he also took home a Gold Glove, a Silver Slugger and, for good measure, the All-Star MVP.
Prior to the 1991 All-Star Game held on July 9th in what was then called SkyDome in Toronto, Ripken was invited to participate in the Home Run Derby. He joined fellow American Leaguers Cecil Fielder of the Tigers, Joe Carter of the Blue Jays, and Danny Tartabull of the Royals in the event, along with National Leaguers Paul O'Neill and Chris Sabo (seriously) of the Reds, George Bell of the Cubs, and Howard Johnson of the Mets.
Ripken wasn't the most prolific slugger in the competition, but he blew every one of them out of the water with a winning total of twelve home runs. I know, that doesn't seem like that many, but what do you want? He wasn't on steroids. O'Neill came in second with just five home runs, so to say Ripken ran away with it isn't an overstatement.
After dominating that event, Ripken went on to make sure the American League won the game as well. In the bottom of the first inning, Ripken singled to put two runners on with no outs, but NL pitcher Tom Glavine struck out fellow derby participants Fielder and Tartabull to end the inning.
Then, in the bottom of the third, Rickey Henderson and Wade Boggs singled and Ripken gave the AL all the runs they'd need to win the game. He cranked a home run off of NL pitcher Dennis Martinez, giving the AL All-Stars a 3-0 lead. The AL went on to win the game 4-2 and Ripken was awarded the MVP for his efforts.
There were a lot of years after 1991 when Ripken was voted into the All-Star Game on reputation, not merit, but in 1991 there was no arguing his place on the team, and with one swing he showed baseball fans across the country (and in Canada!) why he deserved to be there.