Celebrities turn out bearing gifts for Ripken

September 06, 1995|By Ken Murray | Ken Murray,Sun Staff Writer

They came from across the country, names from the past and present, to honor Cal Ripken and shower him with affection last night.

Pittsburgh Pirates pitcher Jim Gott, the winning pitcher for Toronto in the game that started Ripken's consecutive-games streak, presented him with the game ball from that day.

Baltimore Colts' Hall of Fame quarterback John Unitas gave him a blue jersey with No. 19 on it.

Baseball's all-time home run leader Henry Aaron gave Ripken his own Atlanta Braves jersey.

And speed skater Bonnie Blair, a five-time Olympic gold medal winner, gave him a speed-skating outfit.

When Ripken finally joined the immortal Lou Gehrig in baseball's record book for his consecutive-games streak of 2,130, it was from the perfect script. The Orioles routed the California Angels, 8-0, and Ripken rose to the historic occasion, hitting a home run and collecting three hits.

One of the most emotional moments of the game came in the bottom of the fifth, after it was an official game. That's when the streak numbers hanging from the warehouse wall were dropped to read 2,130, and the raucous crowd treated Ripken to a 5-minute, 20-second ovation.

Three times he came out of the dugout to acknowledge the cheers. Sitting in the dugout through the tumult, he appeared to struggle to control his emotions.

An inning later, there was still another ovation, one of a half dozen during the night. This one came after Ripken drilled a 1-1 pitch from Mark Holzemer into the left-field seats for his 14th home run of the season, and the Orioles' sixth of the night.

Aside from going 3-for-5, Ripken also threw out the last batter.

Some 15 minutes after Ripken threw out J. T. Snow to end the game, the Orioles' elaborate post-game celebration began, and many in the sellout crowd of 46,804 stayed to watch the parade of stars.

Orioles broadcaster Jon Miller introduced Ripken one more time, and Ripken took a seat on one of two swivel chairs located just in front of the pitcher's mound.

Singer Joan Jett, dressed in black leather pants and a black top, was the first to come onto the field and she gave Ripken one of her gold records. Jett, who had the No. 1 hit in 1982 ("I Love Rock and Roll") at the time the streak began, sang the national anthem before the game as well.

In absentia, David Letterman was next up, appearing on the JumboTron in center field.

Actors Don Diamont, who did a short skit that was shown on the JumboTron, and Tom Selleck were on hand, along with Pam Shriver, tennis star and minority owner in the Orioles. From the basketball world came Maryland coach Gary Williams and last year's star, Joe Smith, the No. 1 pick in the NBA draft.

Then David Robinson of the San Antonio Spurs gave him a bag of basketballs to pursue his off-season hobby.

Ernie Banks, the Chicago Cubs' Hall of Fame shortstop, presented Ripken with a bat. "Baseball is very, very fortunate to have this young man," Banks said. Banks then implored Ripken to help the Cubs break their streak of not having reached the World Series since 1945.

When Gott presented Ripken with the ball from the May 30, 1982, game -- Gott's first major-league victory as well as the first game in the streak -- Ripken tried to turn it down.

"That was hard; I didn't want to accept that," Ripken said later. "The thing about baseball is that everybody carves out their moments. I told him, 'This is yours. I'm honored that you gave it to me. I might be more honored if you kept it.' "

The Orioles brought back Earl Weaver for the occasion, too. Weaver, Ripken's first manager and the man who moved him from third base to shortstop, threw out the ceremonial first ball -- and then asked Ripken to autograph it. Joining Weaver was Emmanuel Nelson, who was born on May 30, 1982, the day Ripken's streak started.

"What is happening here is better than winning the state lottery," Weaver said. "It's just something fantastic, something that I don't think any generation will ever see again . . . A man playing 2,130 straight games."

TOP 10 LIST

David Letterman's Top 10 reasons for Cal Ripken to take a day off, which were part of last night's post-game celebration:

10.) Not only about to break Lou Gehrig's record, claims to have daily conversations with him.

9.) His infield chatter consists of, "Man I'm tired, man I'm tired."

8.) Also about to break "consecutive days without showering record."

7.) Recently removed appendix during seventh-inning stretch.

6.) Built his own Wonder Bra using two batting helmets.

5.) For the last 350 games, has been throwing like a girl.

4.) Actually enjoys the stadium nachos.

3.) Now getting mail delivered to second base.

2.) He is starting to think that old dude who sells pretzels is kind of hot.

1.) Five words: Jock full of stadium mustard.

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