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
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
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.
"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.
Baltimore Orioles (1981-2001)
1983 ALCS, 1983 World Series, 1996 ALDS, 1996 ALCS, 1997 ALDS,
Yes, 1983 Orioles.
1982 Regular Season
All-Star (20): 1982-2001; American League MVP 1983, 1991; Rookie
of the Year 1982; Gold Glove (2) 1991-1992; All-Star Game MVP
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.
Ripken played 2,302 games at shortstop, and 675 at third base.
League Debut: August 10, 1981
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.
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.
Ripken was the last batter ever at Memorial Stadium in Baltimore,
grounding into a double play to end a loss to Detroit on Oct.
of The Streak
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.
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.
Streak: 442 -- Set A.L. record for assists by a shortstop (583)...
Hit .304 with 27 homers and 86 RBI.
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.
Streak: 765 -- Leads A.L. shortstops for fourth straight year
in home runs (25), RBI (81) and runs (98).
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
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.