How will The Streak end? Ripken's bad break: Injury raises question, whose answer only fate nose, er, knows.

July 12, 1996

WHEN ONE of Cal Ripken Jr.'s mates on the American League All-Star team fell off a riser after a photo-shoot and inadvertently broke the shortstop's nose, it didn't keep Baltimore's Iron Man from missing the All-Star Game. Nor did it halt his consecutive-games record as the Orioles begin the second half of their season. But the accident did, again, raise the question: How will The Streak end? With a bang or a whimper?

Considering Mr. Ripken's style, one envisions the end coming on a bone-jarring collision at home plate, or with the shortstop being thrown spikes over tea kettle while turning a double play. It would be only fitting to happen so heroically, with a hush settling over Camden Yards, as if Mighty Casey had just struck out in Mudville.

Murphy's Law, however, says it won't occur so dramatically. It'll be something stupid -- like a teammate losing his balance. Will the end arrive before 45,000 or in a solitary moment?

We're reminded of the relief pitcher who missed a season after badly slicing his hand in a backyard mishap while clipping his hedges. Or the top college quarterback who lost a year after breaking a finger in a family volleyball game.

Even a few of the many advertisers for whom Mr. Ripken now pitches have played on this theme: A phone company portrays the streak ending because the player is detained by a long-distance bedtime story to his kids. Another streak-ending commercial has something to do with Mr. Ripken mowing his lawn.

Ideally, one would like the record to end without pain or irony; for Cal Ripken to walk through the portals of Camden Yards after missing a game of his own volition. There are mere mortals with the power to affect the timing of this -- the Orioles' owner and manager, to name two. But only fate -- imaginative, puckish fate -- can determine how the streak ends.

Pub Date: 7/12/96

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