Nine Years After It Ended, Ripken's Streak Still Resonates
The four players in the Cal Ripken Sr. Collegiate Baseball League preparing for the start of their game Tuesday night at Shirley Povich Field had trouble believing the statistics being read to them. The next day, the rookie manager of the Washington Nationals, Manny Acta, tried to make sense of the same numbers, as did his all-star first baseman.
Here's what they were all told:
Cal Ripken Jr., who will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., next Sunday with San Diego's Tony Gwynn, played in 2,632 consecutive games for the Baltimore Orioles from May 30, 1982, until Sept. 20, 1998. On Sept. 6, 1995, he surpassed Lou Gehrig's 56-year record of 2,130 games. Over the next three-plus seasons, he played another 501 consecutive games.
He was a 19-time all-star who played shortstop and third base during his 21-year career for the same team that once employed his father as a manager and coach and his brother Billy as an infielder. When he retired after the 2001 season, he had a .276 batting average with 431 home runs.
But let me repeat this: From May 30, 1982, until Sept. 20, 1998, Cal Ripken Jr. played in 2,632 consecutive games. We called it "The Streak," and Ripken did not like to talk about it. Last month, an injury took another Orioles shortstop, Miguel Tejada, out of the lineup after leading the majors with 1,152 consecutive games -- 1,480 fewer than Ripken. Tejada would have needed to play every game for more than nine years to catch Ripken. Nine more years.
"He was," Dmitri Young said, "the iron man of baseball."
The current leader among MLB players for consecutive games played (through Friday) is Juan Pierre of the Los Angeles Dodgers at 368 -- 2,264 games behind Ripken. Pierre will have to play in every game for the next 14 years to catch Ripken.
"I can barely play 10 games in a row without sitting down," said Young, one of the hottest hitters (.340) in the National League.
Nine years ago, when Ripken was in the last year of "The Streak," Acta was a 29-year-old earning his managerial stripes with Kissimmee of the Class A Florida State League. Acta followed "The Streak." As a kid growing up in the Dominican Republic, he knew about Ripken, and when Acta was toiling in the Houston organization in hopes of becoming good enough to play one game in the majors (it never happened), Ripken was approaching 2,000 games.
"To me, Cal Ripken was Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig," Acta said the other day. "Cal Ripken's record is untouchable. Think about this: He breaks Gehrig's record and then plays another 501 consecutive games. What I admired most about him is the pride of playing the game the right way -- with the bat and in the field."
And from the guys in the Ripken League: