Rhodes adds zero to Cal's 2,000th

August 02, 1994|By Tom Keegan | Tom Keegan,Sun Staff Writer

MINNEAPOLIS -- Cal Ripken became 94 percent the (iron) man Lou Gehrig was last night at the Metrodome. Ninety-four percent the man Gehrig was and 153 percent the man of iron as anyone else who ever has played major-league baseball.

Even if Ripken himself shies from reading anything special into the number that symbolizes strength of mind and body, much of baseball took a respite from the tired talk of labor strife to honor the number 2,000.

Ripken reached that milestone with a tip of his batting helmet as he settled in to hit at 7:13 Central Daylight Time under the strangest lights in baseball, under a dome far from home, in front of 27,712 spectators who treated him like one of their own.

And he reached it with no phony tears, no self-congratulatory remarks, and no leading role -- except his usual superb defense -- in the Orioles' 1-0 victory over the Minnesota Twins.

Given his aversion to the spotlight, Ripken probably preferred it was someone else who had the biggest hand in the win, the Orioles' fourth in 13 games.

Arthur Rhodes, just called up from Triple-A Rochester for his third stretch with the major-league club, earned his second victory in his ninth start with the Orioles.

Rhodes broke a streak not nearly as impressive as Ripken's. He tossed a seven-hitter for the Orioles' first shutout in 139 games. It came in their 103rd game of the season. The longest previous stretch without a shutout to open a season was 60 in 1960.

Center fielder Mike Devereaux saved Rhodes' second career shutout with a diving catch in right-center for the final out of Rhodes' gem, leaving a runner stranded.

Rhodes (2-5, 7.01) threw 126 pitches, walked one and struck out four in pitching the Orioles' first shutout since Jamie Moyer beat the California Angels, 1-0, Aug. 24, 1993.

Mark McLemore singled in Leo Gomez for the only run of the game in the second inning.

"Arthur's performance was very impressive," Ripken said. "He made it look easy."

Ripken has been making it look easy for 2,000 games in a row.

Ripken's rare powers of concentration have played a role in the streak, he acknowledged.

"I always feel if you play the game the right way, full force all the time, with full concentration, that insulates you a lot from injuries," said Ripken, known for running out every grounder. "It seems if you let your guard down, go half speed for just a second, that's when you get injured."

He reached the milestone with no cries from the masses for a day off, no implications he is putting himself before the team, and he reached in the same town in which a local columnist four years ago named him as the captain of his all-washed-up team.

"This year it's been a lot more fun dealing with the streak questions because I don't have to worry about hearing the questions of taking a day off to fix your hitting," Ripken said.

When someone plays every day and hits .312 with 70 RBIs, no one asks why.

When he encountered prolonged slumps, pop psychologists were certain a day off was in order.

Ripken never thought that was the proper answer.

"It's something you would rather work through than run away from," Ripken said.

And work he has done.

"My father instilled in me the importance in a team sport of going out and playing, the importance of being counted upon by your teammates," Ripken said. "I take pride in my teammates knowing they could count on me being in there whether it's Roger Clemens or Nolan Ryan pitching."

Ripken's father, Cal Sr., was not in attendance last night, but the younger Ripken's wife, Kelly, was, seated in the first row behind the dugout to witness the milestone.

Ripken went 0-for-4 last night and made two better-than-routine plays in the field, ranging behind second base and doing a 360 before throwing out Jeff Reboulet for the final out in the second inning.

For the final out of the eighth, Ripken backhanded Shane Mack's grounder to the hole and made a strong throw to retire him on a close play.

"Maybe I contributed in some small way to a victory and that's what I try to do every day I go out there," he said.

Ripken downplayed the significance of playing in 2,000 consecutive games and nobody suspected he was faking it.

OC "That's Cal," Orioles manager Johnny Oates said. "The streak is

important, no doubt, but it's secondary to the game of baseball."

Ripken has 130 games to go to tie Gehrig.

For as long as Oates has the job, he will use the same standard for deciding whether the streak continues. If Ripken is healthy enough to help, he will play, Oates said.

He said he would not put him into a game injured for one at-bat simply to prolong the streak.

"I would not even think of belittling what he's done for a courtesy appearance," Oates said. "He wouldn't take it. That would embarrass him. It would belittle the whole thing. He's going to do it the American way. He's going to earn it."

If Ripken passes Gehrig, will he keep going?

"I don't like to answer hypothetical questions, but I'd like to think if it happens, I'll take the same approach," Ripken said. "I think the best compliment someone could pay would be to say he approaches the game the same way he did his first couple of seasons."

Every day.

ORIOLES TONIGHT

Opponent: Minnesota Twins

Site: Metrodome, Minneapolis

Time: 8:05

TV/Radio: Ch. 54/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Mike Mussina (14-5, 3.24) vs. Twins' Carlos Pulido (3-6, 5.66)

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