Sports Stars

Baseball

Cal Ripken Jr

No one thought Lou Gehrig’s 2,130 consecutive games would ever be eclipsed. No one had ever really tried to reach the mark. While Billy Williams and Steve Garvey posted impressive strings of games played, they both lay nearly 1,000 games behind the legendary Yankee first baseman. That changed with the arrival of Ripken in 1982. That season he earned AL Rookie of the Year honors and the next season he won the MVP and led the team to their third World Series title.

In that rookie season Ripken began the streak. Thirteen seasons later on September 6, 1995, he broke Gehrig’s record when he appeared in his 2,131st straight game. Ripken did it with remarkable endurance. He played several seasons in which he didn’t miss an inning. His best seasons came as a shortstop, a demanding position, especially for someone as large as Ripken. Tall and muscular, Ripken helped pave the way for larger, power-hitting shortstops like Alex Rodriguez, Derek Jeter, and Nomar Garciappara.

In the late 1980s the Orioles began to fade and some critics began to question the wisdom of Cal’s streak. Ripken suffered a few seasons where his offensive output was average or below average. In 1991 he silenced critics with his second MVP season, slugging 34 homers. Despite the critics in the media and outside Baltimore, Ripken remained tremendously popular, playing in 17 consecutive All-Star games.

In the 1990s Ripken continued his streak and solid production, despite the Orioles decline. In 1997 he was moved to third base amid controversy. It was apparent to many that Ripken’s stature on the team (and The Streak) were larger and more powerful than any manager. At the very end of the 1998 season, on September 20th, Ripken voluntarily removed himself from the Baltimore lineup and ended the games played streak at 2,632. The record is seemingly safe from challenge.

There were a few close calls that almost brought the streak to an end. In the middle of the 1997 season, back spasms nearly forced Ripken to sit out a game in Anaheim. But he played in pain, hit the game-winning home run and kept the streak intact through the end of the season.

Ripken also came close to benching himself in 1993 after he twisted his knee during a fight with the Seattle Mariners. Ripken finished the game, and although his knee was swollen and painful the following afternoon, he didn't even miss infield practice.

Then there was the bizarre photo shoot before the 1996 All-Star game. As the AL stars were stepping off a makeshift platform, Chicago White Sox pitcher Roberto Hernandez slipped and slammed his forearm into Ripken's nose while trying to catch his balance. Although Ripken broke his nose, he had it reset and played into the seventh inning. Of course, he was back in the Orioles' starting lineup two days after that.

While The Streak will ultimately be recognized as Ripken's most notable feat, he has also excelled on the field. He appeared in 16 straight All-Star games, won Gold Gloves in 1991 and 1992 and was named AL MVP in 1991 and 1983, the last year the Orioles won the World Series.

As his career wound down in the late 1990s and 2000, Ripken reached 3,000 hits and 400 home runs. He was one of the most respected and loved baseball figures of the 1980s and 1990s. On June 19, 2001 he announced he would retire at the end of the season, citing his desire to work with youth and be with his family. The announcement came on the 98th anniversary of Gehrig's birth, and Ripken looked back on his career philosophically. "My career has been unbelievable. I've experienced a lot of different things, the euphoria of winning a championship and also the extreme frustration of going 0-21 [to start the 1988 season] and losing 100 games and going through a torturous rebuilding process. But when I look back on my life, I've always wanted to be a baseball player. I've spent every bit of my energy trying to be a baseball player. I was lucky enough to make it, lucky enough to play in the city I wanted to play in and had this long career.

Nicknames
"Iron Man" and "Rip." Teammates called him "Junior," in deference to his father, Cal Sr., a member of the Orioles' organization for more than three decades.

Played For
Baltimore Orioles (1981-2001)

Post-Season
1983 ALCS, 1983 World Series, 1996 ALDS, 1996 ALCS, 1997 ALDS, 1997 ALCS

World Champion?
Yes, 1983 Orioles.

Ultimate Games (0-1)
1982 Regular Season

Honors
All-Star (20): 1982-2001; American League MVP 1983, 1991; Rookie of the Year 1982; Gold Glove (2) 1991-1992; All-Star Game MVP 1991, 2001

Feats
Longest consecutive-games played streak in baseball history (2,632 games)... On June 14, 1996, Ripken played in his 2,216th consecutive game in a 6-1 win at Kansas City, setting a new consecutive games "world record." The previous mark of 2,215 was held by third baseman Sachio Kinugasa, who played with the Hiroshima Carp in Japan's Central League.

Position
Ripken played 2,302 games at shortstop, and 675 at third base.

Major League Debut: August 10, 1981

Uniform #'s
#8 (1981-2001)

Best Season, 1991
In 1983 he had more hits, more doubles, and more runs, but in 1991 Ripken was a mature player. He won his second MVP award after hitting .323 with 34 homers and a career-high 114 RBI. He silenced the critics who had said in '90 that he should give the streak a rest. Always a good doubles-hitter, Ripken banged out 46, while walking more than he struck out. He fashioned a new batting stance (like Carl Yastrzemski, Ripken believed in tinkering with his stance constantly) and it paid off.

FACTOID
Ripken played 8,243 straight innings from June 5, 1982, to Sept. 14, 1987, making it a few months more than five years without a rest of any kind.

FACTOID
Ripken was the last batter ever at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore, grounding into a double play to end a loss to Detroit on Oct. 6, 1991.

Chronology of The Streak

1982
May 30 -- The streak begins with Cal Ripken Jr. batting eighth and playing third base in a game against Toronto. Ripken played third base for the first 27 games of the streak... June 5 -- Ripken's record streak of 8,243 consecutive innings, spanning 904 games, begins in a game at Minnesota... July 1 -- Orioles manager Earl Weaver moves Ripken to shortstop in a game at Cleveland, despite unanimous disapproval from the critics... Streak: 118 games -- Wins A.L. Rookie of the Year Award after hitting .264 with 28 homers and 93 RBI.

1983
Streak: 280 -- Plays every inning of every game for the first of four straight seasons... Won A.L. Most Valuable Player Award after hitting .318 with 27 homers and 102 RBI... Led the majors in hits with a club-record 211... Helps the Orioles to a World Series championship over Philadelphia, 4-1.

1984
Streak: 442 -- Set A.L. record for assists by a shortstop (583)... Hit .304 with 27 homers and 86 RBI.

1985
April 10 -- In Game 444 of the streak Ripken sprained his left ankle during a pickoff play in the third inning of a game against Texas, but does not leave the game. X-rays taken after the game were negative... April 11 -- Ripken does not play in an exhibition game at the U.S. Naval Academy... April 12 -- Ripken is in the lineup for a game against Toronto to keep the streak alive... Streak: 603 -- Hit .282 with 26 homers and 110 RBI.

1986
Streak: 765 -- Leads A.L. shortstops for fourth straight year in home runs (25), RBI (81) and runs (98).

1987
September 14 -- Ripken's record innings streak of 8,243, spanning 904 games, ends in Toronto when Earl Weaver inserts Ron Washington at shortstop in the bottom of the eighth inning of an 18-3 Blue Jay rout. That was the game in which the Blue Jays hit a major league record 10 home runs... Streak: 927 -- Hit .252 with 27 homers and 98 RBI.

1988
June 25 -- Plays in 1,000th consecutive game as Orioles visit Boston... Streak: 1,088 -- After enduring an 0-for-29 stretch in April, the longest hitless streak of his career, Ripken hits .264 with 23 homers and 81 RBI.

1989
August 18 -- Plays in 1,208th straight game to pass Steve Garvey for the third-longest consecutive games streak... Streak: 1,250 -- Hit .257 with 21 homers and 93 RBI.

1990
June 12 -- Played in 1,308th consecutive game to move into second-place on the all-time list ahead of Everett Scott (1918-1925)... Streak: 1,411 -- Commits only 3 errors in 161 games (681 chances)... Has streaks of 95 errorless games and 431 errorless chances, both records for a shortstop... Hits for his lowest average (.250) for a full season, but still leads the Orioles in homers (21), RBI (84) and runs (78).

1991
Streak: 1,573 -- Wins his second A.L. MVP Award... Ripken's 34 home runs are the most for a shortstop in 22 years... Enjoyed career-highs with a .323 batting average and 114 RBI.

1992
September 11 -- In Game 1,713 of the streak, Ripken suffered a twisted right ankle running out a double against Milwaukee, but did not come out of the game. As a precaution, the Orioles recalled shortstop Manny Alexander from Rochester of the International League.

1993
June 6 -- In Game 1,790 of the streak, Ripken suffered a twisted right knee when his spikes caught in the infield grass against Seattle. Though he did not come out of the game, the knee was swollen the next day. Still, he didn't even miss infield practice. He said later, "It was the closest I've come to not playing."... July 15 -- Ripken hits his 278th homer as a shortstop, most ever hit by a major leaguer at that position surpassing Hall-of-Famer Ernie Banks' previous record of 277, in a game against Minnesota... Streak: 1,897 -- Led major league shortstops in homers for the ninth time in the last 11 years with 24 and in RBI for the eighth time with 90... Led A.L. shortstops in assists (495) for the seventh time in his career, tying the A.L. record. Led A.L. shortstops in total chances (738) for the fifth time.

1994
May 24 -- Hits 300th career home run in a game against Milwaukee... August 1 -- Plays 2,000th straight game as Baltimore visits Minnesota... August 12 -- Players go on strike. Season is canceled by owners one month later... Streak: 2,009 -- Batted over .300 (.315) for the fourth time in his career and drove in 75 runs. Led major league shortstops in fielding percentage (.985).

1995
The baseball strike continues, placing Ripken's streak in jeopardy if the owners use replacement players. Ripken vows he will honor the strike and not participate in replacement games for the sake of the streak. Orioles owner Peter Angelos adamantly refuses to employ replacement players, noting, "We have a special problem in Baltimore with the Cal Ripken streak, an extraordinary accomplishment by Cal and one that we certainly will do everything to avoid harming."... April 26 -- With the strike resolved, on a belated opening day, the streak continues in Kansas City... September 5 -- Ripken ties Lou Gehrig's record of 2,130 consecutive games played as the Orioles defeat California, 8-0. He receives a standing ovation of more than five minutes from the sellout crowd at Oriole Park at Camden Yards when the game becomes official in the bottom of the fifth inning. One inning later, he homers into the left-field seats... September 6 -- Ripken establishes a new record of 2,131 consecutive games played in a 4-2 victory over California. He again hits a homer, this time in the fourth inning. When the game becomes official after the top of the fifth, there is a 22-minute ovation for Ripken, who takes a victory lap around the field... October 1 -- Ripken concluded the 1995 season by playing in his 2,153rd game, a 4-0 victory over the Detroit Tigers. He goes 0-for-2 with a pair of walks and finishes the season with 17 homers, 88 RBI and a .262 batting average... Streak: 2,153 -- Received Sports Illustrated and The Sporting News Sportsman of the Year Awards... Led all AL shortstops with a .989 fielding percentage and 100 double plays turned... Hit .262 with 17 homers and 88 RBI in 144 games.

1996
April 2 -- Ripken opens the 1996 season by playing in his 2,154th consecutive game, a 4-2 victory over the Kansas City Royals. He goes 2-for-4 with three RBI. Ripken delivers a two-out, two-run single in his first at-bat to give the Orioles a 2-0 lead in the first inning and then snapped a 2-2 tie with an R-B-I single in the third inning... May 26 -- Ripken plays in his 2,200th consecutive game, the last 2,173 at shortstop, as the Orioles beat Oakland, 6-1, at Baltimore... May 28 -- Ripken enjoys his first career three-homer game and collects a career-high eight RBI in a 12-8 win at Seattle... May 29 -- Ripken hits his 334th career home run, moving past Eddie Murray for first-place on the Orioles' all-time list, in a 9-8 loss at Seattle... June 14 -- Ripken plays in 2,216th consecutive game in a 6-1 win at Kansas City, setting a new consecutive games world record. The previous mark of 2,215 was held by third baseman Sachio Kinugasa who played with the Hiroshima Carp in Japan's Central League... July 15 -- Ripken starts at third base for the first time since June 30th, 1982 as the Orioles beat Toronto, 8-6, at Camden Yards. He had made 2,216 consecutive starts at shortstop, a major league record at any position, until starting six games at third from July 15-21... August 9 -- Ripken registers his 2,500th career hit, a single off Chicago's Bill Simas, in a 4-3, 10-inning loss to the White Sox... September 29 -- Plays in 163rd game of season in a 4-1 loss at Toronto to extend consecutive games streak to 2,316 games... Streak: 2,316 -- Starter on the AL All-Star team for the 13th consecutive season... Surpassed 100 RBI for the fourth time in his career... Hit .278 with 26 homers and 102 RBI... Broke Lou Gehrig's record for most consecutive years playing all of club's games (14) and most years leading the majors in games played (8).

1997
April 2 -- Ripken opens the 1997 season at third base to extend his consecutive games streak to 2,317. He homers in the fourth inning to give the Orioles a 1-0 lead over the Kansas City Royals... July 8th -- Plays in his 15th consecutive All-Star Game, and first at third base... July 20th -- Drew his third career ejection when umpire Al Clark tossed him after a strikeout call... Streak: 2,478 games -- Since breaking Gehrig's streak, he has played in 346 straight games, which would be the second longest streak in baseball behind Jeff Bagwell (351); finished year in a 6-for-36 slump, but hit .270 with 17 homers and 84 RBI.

1998
March 31st -- Ripken played third base and batted fifth in the season opener against the Kansas City Royals... April 25th -- Ripken iplayed in his 2,500th straight game against Oakland in Baltimore... September 20th -- Ripken pulled himself from the starting lineup against the New York Yankees in the Orioles' final home game of the 1998 season, ending his consecutive games-played streak at 2,632 games. Asked why he ended the streak, Ripken responded, "I just think it reached a point where I firmly believe it was time to change the subject, restore the focus back where it should be, on the team, and move on. I thought about this for a while, for a long time, and my first inclination was to help the team get to the wild card berth, to continue to play, keep the focus right on the team and if we would have fallen through in any way to take the last day off in Boston, just as a way to end it. And then I thought about it for a second and through a little conversation with my wife we worked it out and said, 'Wait a minute. If this is going to happen, if this is going to end, let's end in the same place that it started.' It started in Baltimore many, many years ago. Let's do it in my home state, my home city with my family or friends in front of the -- and I hope you're listening out there in the stadium -- in front of the very best baseball fans anywhere. I appreciate all the support. The only way this is going to be a little bit emotional is it makes me think back on all the great years and all the great times. But this shouldn't be a sad moment. If you look at me, I look at it as a happy moment. It's a celebration. And it's not going to change who I am, it's not going to change the way I approach the game of baseball. I still consider myself an everyday player. And I plan on coming out every single day and proving that on a daily basis. So I'm not going anywhere. All you have to do is look tomorrow and I'll be in the lineup again (Monday) night in Toronto. So that's really it. Don't be sad. Be happy." Ripken had not missed playing in a regular-season game since May 30, 1982.


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