Ripken has an errorless streak, too

INSIDE PITCH

September 13, 1995|By Jim Henneman | Jim Henneman,Sun Staff Writer

Would you believe yet another streak?

Just what Cal Ripken would prefer to ignore. At this point he has reason to feel "streaked out."

Sorry, Cal, but we can't let this one go -- sooner or later somebody would figure it out, so it might as well be now.

You may have noticed how steady Ripken remained during his pursuit of Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games record. But, with all of the hoopla surrounding that remarkable feat, few realized just how steady he has been.

For the record, Ripken hasn't made an error in almost two months. Not since July 18. That's 53 games ago.

For an exclamation point on this performance, taken a step farther, that error on July 18 is the only one Ripken has made in the past 74 games.

How impressive is that? Well, it's within 19 games of a former American League record that was shattered in 1990 by -- guess who? That's the year Ripken played 95 straight errorless games and made just three the entire year -- and didn't win a Gold Glove.

The former AL record of 72 straight games without an error was set by Detroit's Eddie Brinkman in 1972. The major-league record broken by Ripken was 88 games, held jointly by Buddy Kerr of the New York Giants (1946-47) and Kevin Elster of the New York Mets (1988-89).

How impressive is this latest Ripken revelation? Consider that, while in the process of a well-orchestrated countdown to one of dTC baseball's supposedly unbreakable records, Ripken may have occasionally shown signs of emotional stress -- but he never cracked defensively.

The best compliment that can be paid to Ripken is that his defense is taken for granted. Which is why he can go 53 straight games without an error and not have anybody notice.

For one close and very interested observer, the "streak within the streak" has been the most impressive thing about the last two months.

"For weeks I've been telling people the most amazing thing to me is how flawless he's been," said bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks, who has not only seen every inning of Ripken's streak, but his entire career as well.

"I didn't know how long, or how many games, it had been [since he made an error], but I knew that nothing ever changed. With everything that was going on, he kept making plays the same way, doing the same things he always does," said Hendricks. "To me it's been amazing to see him play at the same [defensive] level day in and day out."

During his latest defensive streak, Ripken has handled 241 chances without a miscue (his record is 431 in 1990). Over the last 74 games, he's made the one error in 324 chances, a .997 percentage.

With seven errors overall, he's still a long way from the standard he set five years ago, but considering the circumstances, Ripken's latest "stretch" is more than just a little impressive.

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