Thankfully for the family of Hall of Fame baseball player Cal Ripken, a bizarre story involving the kidnapping of his mother includes her safe return.
Vi Ripken, 74 years old, was found in the back seat of her car with her hands bound Wednesday morning. She was shaken emotionally, but otherwise unharmed, and she told of being abducted at gunpoint from her home in Aberdeen, Md. early Tuesday morning.
Because she has famous sons (Billy Ripken, Cal's younger brother, also played in the majors) and is well-known in the suburban Baltimore community, Vi Ripken would seem to be a reasonable target for kidnappers looking to score cash (horrible as it sounds). But the man who took her never made any demands or left a ransom, and didn't seem to indicate that he knew Vi Ripken or her sons are. Cal Ripken Sr., who managed the Orioles int the late 1980s, died in 1999.
Via an Associated Press story, a neighbor named Gus Kowalewski relayed some of the harrowing details from Mrs. Ripken:
Kowalewski said he spoke with Vi Ripken later Wednesday morning and she told him the gunman tied her hands and put a blindfold on her, but said he wouldn't hurt her.
''He lit cigarettes for her, they stopped for food,'' Kowalewski said. ''He said, 'I'm not going to hurt you. I'm going to take you back,' and that's what he did.''
Kowalewski said Ripken told him the gunman originally planned to put tape over her eyes.
''But he didn't do that because she said 'please don't do that 'cause I'm claustrophobic,''' said Kowalewski, a 72-year-old retired autoworker.
The kidnapper with a heart of gold. That old story. And yet, the kidnapper drove Mrs. Ripken's car back to her neighborhood and left. A son of another neighbor, Mike Hudson, made an astute point when speculating about who the kidnapper could be:
''It's just hard to believe the guy came all the way back on the street and dropped her off. That makes me believe he was local, very local,'' said Hudson, who is staying at his mother's house while visiting with his daughter.
Perhaps the perpetrator did realize who he had taken, what he had done and how bad the story might get if he didn't stop. That's a reasonable explanation for what happened. It's still frightening.
Vi Ripken described her abductor as a tall, thin white man with glasses wearing camouflage clothing, but police had no other details. The FBI and Maryland State Police were also involved in the investigation.