Improving on warm-up won't be easy for Orioles

September 06, 1995|By PHIL JACKMAN

The one drawback to perfection is it leaves no room for improvement.

Of course, last night's Cecil B. DeMille production at Camden Yards only marked Cal Ripken's equaling Lou Gehrig's all-time consecutive games played record. Only?

There's a very good chance the record-breaker tonight, also against the California Angels, will be even better. Everyone, including the guy who plays shortstop, will be trying to make it that way anyway.

It won't be easy even if the Queen of England, Pope John Paul II and Elvis Presley show up to spectate along with President Clinton, Vice President Gore and countless other dignitaries assured of being on hand.

When all is said and done, which doesn't seem likely in the foreseeable future, this entire thing is about baseball and Ripken and the gang put on a memorable performance. For openers, they struck four home runs in one inning, three consecutively, while crunching California, 8-0. Not to be outdone, Ripken later reached the seats after contributing two hits earlier.

It was, however, the unfurling of 10-foot-high banners that read 2130 after the teams had completed 4 1/2 innings that made this "the night of a million flashbulbs."

It was just before 9:30 when thunderous music oozing pomp and ceremony started. The sellout crowd of 46,804 arose and the ovation began. One minute, two, three on and on. Ballplayers, umpires, everyone. Many eyes went dewy. Mouths became parched. For more than five minutes, Cal asked himself, "what do I do now?"

We're talking baseball here, the game that has been attempting suicide for a few years now.

Remember the last weekend of Memorial Stadium and the final "Field of Dreams" game after which all the great Orioles of four decades flooded onto the field? This was nearly a match.

* Andy Gorman, age 11, isn't very far into his life, but already he has something that will light him up inside for decades to come. After a couple of innings of watching the Orioles game on television last night in their nearly Otterbein home, Andy and mother Mary headed for the ballpark.

It was a picture right out of Norman Rockwell. Andy, who is part monkey, according to mom, was 10 feet up the outer gate behind left-center field, his arms stuck through the bars. In his hands was a set of powerful binoculars and he could see just about everything real good.

As he provided play-by-play for his mother, Mary left little doubt where her son's increasing affection for the game comes from. "I started out as a Mets fan, coming from West chester County outside New York City, and remember the 1969 World Series real well. As I recall, Baltimore had quite a bit of trouble with New York teams that year."

Once a New Yorker, always a New Yorker, right?

Andy listened as mom told of attending an afternoon game at Shea Stadium that saw the Mets and Dodgers play for 25 innings. He convulsed when Mary said, "we [the kids] wanted to leave, but my mother made us stay."

Andy inquired, "Grandma?"

It was time for Ripken to bat again, so the youngster scurried back up to his perch with his mom saying, "Cal's streak has been going as long as [sister] Megan has been alive. It started May 30, 1982, and she was born that week."

A clearly audible crack of the bat was followed by an ever-increasing roar as Cal went deep. Andy's mouth dropped open and he went limp, remembering to hold onto the bars. A look of amazement, which figures to last only a week or two, played his face.

Imagine it to be the year 2045 and grandpa Andy has the grandkids in tow and they're begging for a story about "the good old days."

Write stuff down, clip the newspapers, savor it, lad. You won't be sorry.

* Quickies: Hunt long enough and you could come up with similarities linking Cleopatra and the acting commissioner of baseball, Bud Selig. Maybe the best joining of Ripken and Lou Gehrig is the fact they arrived at 2,130 games played consecutively at age 35, meaning they grinded along on a parallel all the way.

The plethora of standing ovations an appreciative but embarrassed Cal Ripken has lived through for a month reminded of a story they tell about Marilyn Monroe and Joe DiMaggio during their short-lived marriage in the '50s.

Marilyn, obviously wanting to return to center stage and the limelight, said to Joe, "You don't know what it's like to hear those cheers from thousands upon thousands [during a visit to the troops serving in Korea]."

DiMag very politely replied, "Yes I do."

Cal knows, too.

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