Cal stands alone 2,131 Gehrig's iron-man mark falls

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

Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken played in his 2,131s consecutive game tonight, breaking a record that Hall of Famer Lou Gehrig established more than 50 years ago.

Just before the start of tonight's game, attended by President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, Ripken walked out of the Orioles dugout to where his wife, Kelly, and two children were waiting, hugging them before going back into the clubhouse.

Then, moments later, Ripken ran onto the field by himself - his teammates waited for several seconds before joining him. Bruce Hornsby and Branford Marsalis performed the national anthem, both pausing momentarily in the middle for the crowd to yell "O."Ripken surpasses a mark set by one of baseball's legendary players.

Gehrig began his streak on June 1, 1925, becoming the first baseman and cleanup hitter, just behind Babe Ruth, in the New York Yankees' Murderers' Row lineup. Over the next 14 years, he set records for most consecutive years with 100 RBIs (13), most RBIs in a single season (184, an American League mark), most years with 400 or more total bases (five) and, of course, consecutive games played. He hit a total of 493 homers.

But his streak ended on May 2, 1939, after Gehrig contracted amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, a disease that crippled and killed him little more than two years later.

He was known as the Iron Horse, and a plaque honoring him at Yankee Stadium was inscribed with the line that his consecutive-games record "should stand for all time."

Ripken's streak began on May 30, 1982, when he started at third base against the Toronto Blue Jays. He went 0-for-4, and Blue Jays rookie Jim Gott recorded his first major-league victory. (After Ripken played in his 2,130th straight game Tuesday night, Gott handed the game ball from that day to the Orioles shortstop, and Ripken said this touched him deeply.)

Several days later, June 5, he also began a streak of innings that is believed to a major-league record - 8,243 - that ended on Sept. 14, 1987, when Cal Ripken Sr., his father, inserted Ron Washington at shortstop in the eighth inning.

Ripken's record comes in a year when baseball is in need of an infusion of credibility.

"He has made the rest of us look very good," said catcher Chris Hoiles. The Streak has been born of Ripken's love to play, each and every day, the desire to compete.

Third base coach Steve Boros today related an incident that occurred in the first inning of Game No. 2,130 Tuesday night. Brady Anderson was on second, Ripken on first, two outs, when a fly ball was hit to the outfield. Ripken rounded second and third, before the catch was made and the inning ended. As

Ripken took off his helmet, he said to Boros: "You tell Brady that I was at second before he got to third."

Boros said: "Here he is, accomplishing one of the great feats in the history of the game, and he's got this little competition on beating Brady to the next base. That says a lot about how much he loves to play this game."

L Two thousand, one hundred and thirty-one games, to be exact.

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