The Streak

My favorite baseball player of all time is Cal Ripken, Jr.

I’ve never been an Orioles fan. I’ve never been to Baltimore. And, I’m sorry to say, the one time I saw the Orioles in Kansas City while Ripken’s career was still active, Ripken himself did not play. I felt disappointed, of course, but one could hardly hold it against him for taking a day off, considering his distinguished career and his 2,632 consecutive games streak.

Ah yes… The Streak.

Herein lies the reason that I admire Ripken: his steady play, his work ethic, his consistency, and the fact that he showed up to play day in and day out. I have learned to really appreciate these qualities in the workplace, and in people in general, as they are true rarities.

Photo source: sportsthenandnow.com

The Streak began on 30 May 1982, and for sixteen years, Ripken did not miss a single game. He played hurt. He played sick. Yankees pitcher David Cone hit the nail on the head when he said, “A lot of people who go to work every day can identify with Cal. The streak supersedes baseball.”

On 6 September 1995, Ripken played in his 2,131st consecutive game, thus breaking Lou Gehrig’s 56-year-old record. Among the fans in attendance at the game were President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore, Yankees legend Joe DiMaggio, and Ripken’s family. Then, in the bottom of the fourth inning with a 3-0 count, Ripken blasted a fastball into the stands for a home run, which brought the crowd roaring to its feet.

When the game became official in the fifth inning, a banner reading “2131” was dropped over right field, and Ripken emerged from the dugout in response to the curtain call from the crowd.  Even after Ripken returned to the dugout, however, the cheering continued, and Ripken emerged once again.  This time, he did more than just tip his hat in acknowledgement to the crowd.  He broke out into a slow jog around the perimeter of the field, giving high fives and shaking hands with Orioles fans as he went.

Even today, eighteen years later, seeing footage of that moment gives me the chills.  It was a moment of true greatness, unlikely to be matched anytime soon.

On 20 September 1998, the Orioles’ final home game of the season, Ripken voluntarily took himself out of the lineup.  He was not hurt, he just felt it was time.  He explained simply, “The emphasis should be on the team.  There have been times during the streak when the emphasis was on the streak. I was never comfortable with that. It was time to move the focus back to the team.”

To top it all off, throughout all the hype and the scrutiny surrounding this record, Ripken remained as humble as a man could be.  “A lot of people think this is a great, great accomplishment,” he said. “But I really believe that somebody else will come along and play more games, because if I can do it, somebody else definitely will. I don’t consider myself superhuman and I’m not an iron man physically or mentally.”  You don’t encounter class like that every day.

By the time Cal Ripken retired in 2001, he had accomplished more than just breaking the record for consecutive games played.  He had been named Rookie of the Year in 1982,  the American League MVP twice, and appeared in nineteen All-Star games.  Additionally, he had won the Gold Glove twice, the Silver Slugger award eight times, and received the Roberto Clemente Award in 1992.  He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007.

________________________________________________

Canton, Rafael.  “Interview: Cal Ripken, Jr. Talks Unbreakable Records, Farewell Tours, and Being A Role Model.”  Complex Sports.  Complex Media  25 July 2013.  Web.  Accessed 13 November 2013.   http://www.complex.com/sports/2013/07/interview-cal-ripken-jr-talks-unbreakable-records-farewell-tours-and-being-a-role-model

“‘I think the time is right’: Ripken ends historic streak at 2,632 games.”  CNN/SI  20 September 1998.  Web.  Accessed 12 November 2013. http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/baseball/mlb/news/1998/09/20/ripken_streak/

“Sep 6, 1995: Ripken breaks record for consecutive games played.”  History: This Day in History.  A&E Television Networks 1996-2013.  Web.  Accessed 13 November 2013. http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/ripken-breaks-record-for-consecutive-games-played


6 Comments on “The Streak”

  1. steve says:

    The streak is hard to grasp, especially in the universal sense you point out- “the work ethic,” that punch clock resilience day in day out no matter what. Ripken himself liked to point out that the streak was more a streak of consecutive innings than games. Many a player slips in as pinch hitter or late inning defensive replacement, but not Ripken. He played every damn inning of every damn one of those games. Incredible.

    • Oh yes, truly. He never wavered, and yet never boasted or bragged about it. Never flashy, just steady and consistent. I completely agree: Incredible.

      • steve says:

        I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but it doesn’t seem like you mind when it involves Cal Ripken Junior. He is in my estimation the definition of class.He is the barometer of excellence and I’m glad to say that Red Sox manager John Farrell strikes me as someone with similar attributes.

        • You’re right, I don’t mind at all 🙂 I look forward to the day that Ripken’s biography gets written and hits bookstores. And yeah, Farrell is doing an amazing job in Boston. It sucks that he didn’t get manager of the year.

          • steve says:

            The autobiography Ripken wrote after the 1996 season, “Cal Ripken Jr: My Story” got great reviews. I haven’t read it yet, but it’s in my shopping kart for the next amazon order. It’s rare that a sports autobiography gets such amazing praise, but then again, it comes as little surprise for the reasons we’ve already discussed.

          • I read “The Only Way I Know” a long time ago. But I didn’t know about “My Story.” I’ll have to track down a copy!


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