CLEVELAND -- At times, Cal Ripken wondered if he would reach the 20-home run mark this year, so he was gratified when he finally did it.
"It's been a struggle," he said yesterday. "I dug such a big hole at the beginning, it always seemed like I was scrapping to get out of it.
"I'd get close, then slide back down again. That makes this kind of special."
When he connected Wednesday night against Chuck Cary in New York, Ripken became only the 12th player in major-league history to hit 20 or more in his first nine full seasons.
Dale Murphy of the Philadelphia Phillies also has a nine-season streak of 20 or more home runs, beginning in 1982, but the seasons are not his first nine.
Before Ripken, the last player to hit 20 or more home runs in his first nine full seasons was Eddie Murray, also with the Orioles (1977-85).
"The only thing I really knew is that four players had eight [seasons] in a row last year, including [Dwight] Evans and [Tom] Brunansky," Ripken said.
"I wanted to do it. It's part of your ability to do what you're capable of."
Of the 32 players who have hit 20 or more in nine straight seasons, 17 are in the Hall of Fame.
* Manager Frank Robinson has decided to start left-hander Dan Boone against the Cleveland Indians on Sunday, in the team's final road game.
"He deserves it," said Robinson. "He was the best man available. I'm not particularly sentimental about these things."
Boone, 36, said it will be a "dream come true" when he makes his first major-league start in his 14th professional season.
"You don't have to worry with him out there," said pitching coach Al Jackson. "Some guys are a little shaky, but he knows what he's doing."
Boone's most recent appearance was Wednesday night in New York, when he went one scoreless inning in relief. He went 2,097 days between big-league appearances before he pitched Sept. 16 for the Orioles in Toronto.
* Outfielder Dave Gallagher is prepared to go into department stores with the device he patented, Stride-Tutor, which keeps hitters from over-striding at the plate.
Gallagher said he has sold "6,000 to 7,000" of the devices via mail order to everyone from "Little Leaguers to major-leaguers. The Brewers went for it the most."
* Catcher Chris Hoiles visited Dr. Arthur Pappas in Boston yesterday for an examination of his injured throwing shoulder, but the Orioles had no information about the diagnosis. An earlier examination by team physician Dr. Charles Silberstein revealed a torn shoulder muscle or muscle hernia.
20 home-run club
Only 12 players in major-league history have hit 20 or more home runs in each of their first nine full seasons. When he hit his 20th home run of this season Wednesday, Cal Ripken (1982-90) became the latest to have accomplished the feat. The others and the seasons in which they accomplished it:
Eddie Murray 1977-85
Reggie Jackson 1968-76
Dick Allen 1964-72
Billy Williams 1961-69
Frank Robinson 1956-64
Rocky Colavito 1956-64
Eddie Mathews 1952-60
Ralph Kiner 1946-54
*Ted Williams 1939-50
*Joe DiMaggio 1936-47
Bob Johnson 1933-41*Williams and DiMaggio served in World War II, 1943-45.