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  Angels Get a Front-Row Seat to History

By J.A. Adande
Washington Post Staff Writer
September 07, 1995

BALTIMORE, SEPT. 6 — It's only fitting that the California Angels were in town this week. No other team's presence could have assured that "CAL" would be on the scoreboards at Oriole Park at Camden Yards the entire night as Cal Ripken set the record for most consecutive games played.

Whether it was foresight by the schedule-makers or a coincidence, the Angels were happy that fate brought them here tonight.

"It's a Kodak moment," outfielder Tony Phillips said. "It's not baseball; it's history in the making."

Angels third baseman Rene Gonzales said: "I was going to be here regardless. Then I found out {about the schedule}, and I said, you know that it was meant for me to be here. I'm ecstatic about the whole thing. It's great."

For four seasons, from 1987 to 1990, Gonzales had the worst job in sports: Cal Ripken's backup.

"When I was here, he still had the consecutive-innings thing," Gonzales said."I was thinking, I'm never going to play shortstop. The one game I got to play nine innings in, he got kicked out in the first inning for arguing balls and strikes.

"I went up to the plate 0-2 in the count, but I said, Yeah, get him out of there. It's my turn.'"

In all honesty, Gonzales can say: "Cal's the reason I'm a utility man. I considered myself a pretty damn good shortstop. I thought I was going to have a great career as a shortstop. He made me a utility man. But if you're going to back up somebody, it might as well be a Hall of Famer like Cal Ripken. I got to at least be able to say that."

Rex Hudler can say he was drafted ahead of Ripken. He said tonight he didn't mind when the action came to a 22-minute 15-second halt after the game became official after 4 1/2 innings. He even encouraged Ripken to take his victory lap around the field.

"I was saying, Go ahead. Go ahead Cal, go ahead,'" Hudler said."That was really great to see him do that."

Many Angels, on the field and in the dugout, applauded. But it wasn't a great moment for starting pitcher Shawn Boskie.

"I expected {the delay} to happen," Boskie said. "I was going to be patient. That was his moment and I was happy for him."

Nevertheless,"we were losing," Boskie added. "I wasn't happy about that. I wasn't just going to sit down and enjoy it. I felt like we needed the win more importantly than we needed to enjoy this moment. I'll enjoy it more when I just get to sit and watch it on tape.

"I got this ball at least," he said, holding one of the commemorative balls used in the game. "I know it will mean a lot to me in the future."

Hudler got a commemorative ball the hard way, leaping to snare a flare that Ripken hit with the bases loaded in the fifth inning.

"I was saying, Hey, hit me this ball please,'" Hudler said. "Hit a line drive to my left or right so I can get dirty and have some Camden Yards dirt on me. When I saw it go up in the air, I said, Oh, Hud, there it is.'

"It was like a diamond, a big diamond," he said, twirling the ball in his hand." I gloved it and I couldn't believe it stuck in my glove. I shook it a couple times, just to feel. . . . Then I hear the boos and I said, Oh man, if they wanted me to drop it, I would drop it.'"

He ran directly into the clubhouse and put the ball into his locker. Later, he was given another special gift, a signed bat, dated Sept. 6, from Ripken. It read: "You know it's been a long time since we broke in, your going ahead of me in the draft, until this date. Right know {sic} I'm feeling like when you strike out with the bases loaded: VISIBLY SHAKEN."

Hudler looked like a little kid.

"Oh my gosh!" he said. "Look at this! I can't believe he dated it and everything!"

© Copyright 1996 Washington Post Company

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