2,130 down, 1 to go O's fans turn tying record to night of cheer

September 06, 1995|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,Sun Staff Writer

Another round of cheers chased Cal Ripken into the dugout in the sixth inning, one inning after the game became official and he tied Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games record of 2,130 games.

The Orioles shortstop had just homered, and as he pulled on the Velcro straps of his batting glove, he flopped down on the bench, next to teammate Brady Anderson. "I didn't think that ball had a chance," Anderson said to his friend.

"The baseball gods," Ripken replied, "helped it out."

There was ample evidence of such intervention last night. First, Ripken got through the game unscathed, and he is prepared to break Gehrig's record tonight. He had three hits, including the home run. The first outs of the game were recorded on a strikeout-caught stealing double play, Ripken applying the tag; the last out came on a ground ball to Ripken.

And the final score. No runs for the California Angels, eight -- Ripken's number -- for the Orioles.

Perfect.

"I'm not in the business of script-writing," Ripken said afterward, "but if I were, this would've been a pretty good one."

He acknowledged that he was exhausted, his sleep interrupted by nervousness and anticipation over the past week. But in his post-game news conference, Ripken appeared euphoric, smiling broadly, talking about how much he enjoyed all of this. A moment, he said, that he would want to wish for everybody.

But he shared the moment with 46,804 fans in attendance, his teammates and the Angels. They began to rise, prepared to acknowledge greatness, even as Greg Myers' fly ball descended upon center fielder Brady Anderson for the final out for California in the fifth inning -- the last official out needed for Ripken to tie Gehrig's streak of 2,130 games.

Ripken ran off the field, but there was no escaping the cheers. His teammates were waiting for him in the dugout, bench coach Chuck Cottier and then pitcher Jamie Moyer and, at the last, Anderson wrapping both arms around Ripken.

The numbers hanging off the warehouse were suddenly illuminated, the "Day One" music building simultaneously to the crescendo of cheers. Bodies turned toward the numbers, bodies belonging to the umpires, players from both dugouts, grounds crew members.

A zero rolled over the nine, a three over the two, and 2,129 becoming 2,130, and an explosion of cheers brought Ripken out of the Orioles' dugout. He stood and waved, raising both arms, turning to all directions, shaking his head slightly. Camera flashes reacted to his every move.

Ripken looked at his wife Kelly and wiped at his right eye with a finger. A suggestion to her, perhaps, or maybe some self-maintenance. Plate umpire Al Clark stood 40 feet away and applauded.

Ripken turned and looked at the numbers on the warehouse. Stared hard. Once, and then twice. He raised his arms and looked back into the dugout, where his teammates had formed a wall on the top step. He wasn't going back in. Not yet.

Two minutes and 45 seconds into the ovation, Bobby Bonilla finally relented, waving Ripken into the dugout. But the crowd wasn't finished with Ripken. The faces of him and Gehrig appeared on the JumboTron side by side, and the roar pitched again. Unstoppable.

"A very powerful moment," Ripken said later.

Orioles rookie Curtis Goodwin circled directly in front of the shortstop, holding a minicam, recording history. Ripken smiled. Another small shake of his head, and then he came out of the dugout again.

He slapped his chest and looked around, the message clear: Thank you, from the heart.

Again he retreated to the dugout, and Clark told Jeff Manto to get into the box.

"I was like, 'No way,' " Manto said. "I wasn't going to start hitting then."

Clark waved his arms into the air. Couldn't play in such a din.

"There's no way that an umpire is going to steal from a positive moment that is not just Cal Ripken's, but all of baseball's," Clark said later.

The crowd called for Ripken, pleaded for him, chanted his name. Ripken smiled an embarrassed smile, sat in the dugout. They kept chanting.

Ripken emerged for the third time, waved and walked back down the dugout steps, and 5 minutes and 20 seconds after Anderson had gloved Myers' fly ball, baseball and The Streak had resumed at Camden Yards.

"Hey, Al," Manto said to Clark, looking around the ballpark, "how do I top this?"

They would stand again for Ripken, when he ran onto the field for the top of the sixth, after he hit a home run in the bottom of the sixth, after the game.

The buildup for this moment started years and months and days, and hours before. Ripken was the last Oriole to emerge from the clubhouse to begin pre-game stretching, and a platoon of photographers and camera people waited for him to step onto the field. They stood in two rows, forming a human tunnel like you might see at the Super Bowl when players are introduced.

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