Cal Ripken Jr.
- 3B, SS, DH
- Iron Man
- August 24, 1960
- 6' 4"
- 200 lbs
- Major League Debut:
- 8-10-1981 with BAL
- Allstar Selections:
- 1982 ROOK, 1983 ML, 1983 MVP, 1983 SS, 1984 SS, 1985 SS, 1986 SS, 1989 SS, 1991 AsMVP, 1991 GG, 1991 ML, 1991 MVP, 1991 SS, 1992 GG, 1992 LG, 1992 RC, 1993 SS, 1994 SS, 2001 AsMVP
- Hall of Fame:
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.
When inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007, he was a first ballot inductee with the third highest voting percentage (98.53%) in Hall of Fame history, behind Tom Seaver (98.84%) and Nolan Ryan (98.79%).
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