With streak 2nd to none, Oriole trots into record books 2,131 Ripken makes baseball history 2,131: RIPKEN PASSES GEHRIG

September 07, 1995|By Buster Olney | Buster Olney,Sun Staff Writer

The record belonged to Cal Ripken -- 2,131 consecutive games played, one better than Lou Gehrig -- and fans, teammates, opponents and umpires stood and cheered in acknowledgment. No matter how many times Ripken stepped out in front of the Orioles' dugout, the ovation continued, for more than 10 minutes.

They're not going to let up, teammates Rafael Palmeiro and Bobby Bonilla told him, and we'll never get this game started until you go around the field.

Ripken said later, "I told them I didn't have the energy to make it. They said, 'You can walk.' "

Bonilla and Palmeiro grabbed him by the arms, pulled him out of the dugout and pushed him on his way. For the first time in more than 13 years, Cal Ripken needed prodding to take the field, and he began a slow, circular tour of the ballpark, touching fans with words and smiles and handshakes all the way around.

"It was more intimate," Ripken said later. "Being there and seeing the enthusiasm up close was really meaningful. . . . It was an unbelievable experience."

The cheering had started when Damion Easley stepped into the box with two outs in the top of the fifth inning, the Orioles leading 3-1. One more out and the game and Ripken's place in the record books would become official.

By the time Easley popped out to second baseman Manny Alexander in short right field, the crowd was standing. Ripken was smiling broadly as he ran off the field, and as he put his glove down in the dugout, teammates gathered around to congratulate him.

Those in the Orioles bullpen climbed over the left-center-field wall and ran across the field to join in, and uniformed policemen stepped out to ring the field. The California Angels stood in front of the dugout and applauded; pitcher Shawn Boskie didn't even bother starting his warm-up, anticipating a long delay.

Some 70 seconds into the cheers, the No. 2,131 unraveled on the B&O warehouse, and Ripken stepped out of the dugout and waved. A small cannon exploded beyond the center-field stands, eight times for No. 8.

Ripken looked up at the private boxes, searching for a glimpse of his father, and when the eyes of Cal Ripken Jr. met those of Cal Ripken Sr., son pumped two arms in the air, and father answered in kind. His mother, Vi, stood next to his father, crying.

Ripken walked over toward the box seats where his children sat with his wife Kelly, pulling out and unbuttoning his jersey as he went. Ripken removed his jersey, handing it to Kelly in a lump, and in doing so, he revealed a black T-shirt with white lettering on the back that read: 2,130+ HUGS AND KISSES FOR DADDY.

He picked up 2-year-old son Ryan and kissed 5-year-old daughter Rachel. With the back of her hand, she wiped the spot where her father had kissed her. Ripken reached over and shook the hand of his brother Bill, sitting nearby.

Boskie came out to warm up 4 minutes and 30 seconds into the ovation and started throwing softly, but the cheers would not die. The crowd chanted "We Want Cal!" and he came out again, waving in all directions, one big wave to his mother.

He went back into the Orioles dugout. They called him out again. And again. Ripken came out and pointed at his heart, mouthing the words, "I can't take much more of this."

Angels catcher Jorge Fabregas talked with plate umpire Larry Barnett, and then went to Boskie, who returned to the dugout. No sense in warming up. Ripken, shaking his head, was called out again. And again. The crowd would not let up.

Then, with Ripken smiling, Bonilla and Palmeiro pushed him out, and slowly he started down the right-field line. The crowd responded with a roar.

Hands reached out to him, and Ripken reached back. Upon reaching right field, he shook hands with groundskeepers and policemen. Several fans in right-center field climbed over the railing and dropped to the space between the outfield wall and the stands to shake his hand, and Ripken leaped to reach them.

As he passed the Orioles' bullpen, where the relievers had returned, and reached up to slap five with each man, stopping to shake hands with coach Elrod Hendricks. Ripken continued to touch fans in left field, around the left-field line, many yelling congratulations. He slowed when he reached the Angels, lined up in front of their dugout. Hall of Famer Rod Carew, the team's hitting instructor, met him with a hug, and so did ex-teammate Rene Gonzales.

Ripken continued, until he got back to Bill Ripken and Kelly and Rachel and Ryan. Twenty minutes had passed since Easley's pop-out. Ripken was greeted by clubhouse attendant Butch Barnett, who had tears streaming down his face, and they hugged.

Boskie began warming up, but they called for Ripken again, and for the eighth time -- No. 8 -- he came out to acknowledge them.

The game resumed after a delay of 22 minutes, 15 seconds, and when Ripken sat down, he let loose a huge breath.


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