TONIGHT: Next home run will put Ripken in some heavy hitting company

July 15, 1991|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Evening Sun Staff

OAKLAND, Calif. -- Cal Ripken is on the verge of joining an elite club that includes only seven members.

The next home run for the Orioles' All-Star shortstop will give him at least 20 for each of the first 10 years of his career. There are no active players who have accomplished the feat.

Five of the seven who hit at least 20 homers in their first 10 years are Hall of Famers and another (Reggie Jackson) is headed for Cooperstown. Eddie Mathews tops the list, having hit 20 or more home runs in his first 14 seasons (1952-65) in the big leagues.

Billy Williams (1951-63) and Reggie Jackson (1968-80) did it in each of their first 13 seasons. Frank Robinson, one of Ripken's former managers, hit 20 or more for a dozen straight years at the start of his career (1956-67).

Rocky Colavito did it for his first 11 years. Joe DiMaggio (1936-48) and Ted Williams (1939-1951) did it 10 years in a row, with both missing considerable time while in the service during World War II and, in Williams' case, the Korean conflict.

Barring completely unforeseen circumstances, Ripken will reach 20 earlier than in any of his previous nine years. His career-high of 28 came in his rookie season (1982). The Orioles will play their 85th game tonight (10:35, no TV) against the California Angels in Anaheim.

In tonight's game, Ripken and the Orioles will take their swings against Kirk McCaskill (7-11, 4.02). Jeff Ballard (5-9, 4.96) will make his first start of the second half for the Orioles.

After concluding the series against California here tomorrow night, the Orioles move on to Kansas City for another two-game series before returning to Baltimore.

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