After years of neglect, Cal Ripken's defensive excellence finally has been recognized. It was officially announced today by Rawlings Sporting Goods and The Sporting News, sponsors of the award, that the Orioles shortstop has won his first Gold Glove.
Along with the other recipients, Ripken was due to be honored at a charity dinner in New York tonight.
Ripken established fielding records for percentage (.996), fewest errors in a season (three) and consecutive errorless games (95) and chances (431) a year ago and has led the American League in at least one category in each of the eight full seasons he has played shortstop. Yet until now, the managers and coaches had shunned him in the Gold Glove voting. Last season he finished second to Chicago's Ozzie Guillen.
His omission last year, he admits, may have had an influence on his selection this year. "I received a lot of attention for my fielding in 1990," he said. "A lot of people spoke out, heightening the awareness that maybe I deserved the recognition for my defense. Maybe that worked to my advantage.
"I always said it would be nice to win a Gold Glove, because there have been a couple of years I think warranted my winning. It doesn't take anything away from the accomplishment by not winning it, but it sure feels good now that I've won it."
Although he made almost four times as many errors in 1991 (11) as he did in 1990, Ripken felt it was an easier, and more productive, defensive year for him.
"The 1990 season was a very difficult one because I didn't know the pitchers and their tendencies," he said. "This past year I knew the pitchers better and was able to position myself better. I had more chances this year because I felt like I could anticipate better. When you get a lot of total chances you feel like you contribute to the team more. But from the standpoint of not making errors, no season can match 1990."
Ripken had a total of 807 chances last year (as opposed to 680 in 1990). That is the fourth highest total in his career. His personal best was 906 in 1984, when he established an American League record with 583 assists.
Last year was the fourth time Ripken led the league in total chances and putouts (267); the sixth time he has led in assists (529); the fifth time he has led in double plays (114) and the second straight year he has led in fielding percentage.
During the last two years, Ripken has averaged one error every 106.2 chances. During the past season he averaged a miscue every 73.4 chances, as opposed to the league average for shortstops of one every 33.6 chances.