Ripken turns sweet 16 as star Oriole 2nd to Griffey in All-Star fan voting, gets 16th start in a row

July 01, 1998|By Bill Free | Bill Free,SUN STAFF

The little boy in Cal Ripken overflowed last night as he took time out from a tumultuous regular season to reminisce about some of his most cherished All-Star Game moments, both as a player and a fan.

No matter how many times he plays in the traditional midsummer classic, Ripken said he never grows tired of the excitement surrounding the event.

"I jumped a fence in Cleveland last year to get in the field boxes, which were the best seats to watch the home run-hitting contest," Ripken said. "I did ask first if I could be there. I just love sitting there and watching guys like Mark McGwire hit balls to unbelievable parts of the park. It's a cool thing to be around all that action for two or three days and to sit in the clubhouse and talk to all the players there."

Ripken will make his 16th consecutive start for the American League team on Tuesday night at Coors Field in Denver. He joins a select group. Only 12 players in major-league history have been selected for more All-Star games than Ripken.

"Certain things happen at the All-Star Game," he said. "It is so special."

Ripken and Roberto Alomar were the two Orioles who gained starting spots as American League results of fan voting for the 69th All-Star Game were released yesterday.

Seattle Mariners outfielder Ken Griffey became the leading All-Star vote-getter for the third straight year and fourth time overall, far outdistancing the competition.

Griffey, elected to start for the ninth consecutive time, got 4,202,830 votes, well ahead of Ripken, second with 3,402,657. Griffey's total also topped NL leader Mark McGwire, who got 3,377,145 in voting totals released Monday.

McGwire leads the majors with 37 homers, while Griffey and Chicago Cubs outfielder Sammy Sosa -- overlooked in the voting -- are tied for second with 33.

Texas Rangers catcher Ivan Rodriguez will make his seventh straight All-Star appearance.

Ripken, who has played in a major-league-record 2,561 consecutive games, including 429 since breaking Lou Gehrig's mark, made 14 starts at shortstop and will be making his second in a row at third base. Alomar will be playing in his ninth All-Star Game.

As always, Ripken brushed aside the theory that many players would prefer to have a three-day vacation rather than play in the game.

"If everyone had their choice, it would be a landslide victory for going to the All-Star Game," he said. "I thoroughly feel good when I come back from those two to three days."

Certainly Ripken can't forget the 1991 All-Star Game at Toronto's SkyDome when he won the home-run hitting contest (12 on 22 swings) and hit a three-run home run as the American League won, 4-2. He was selected the MVP.

"The 1991 game was great," he said. "To win the home-run hitting contest was unexpected. I qualified fifth for the contest with 18 homers at the All-Star break and then to hit a home run to help win the game was even more special."

Even though Ripken loves the bright lights of the All-Star Game, he seemed to get just as much of a kick out of discussing the days when he followed his dad, Cal Sr., around various minor-league stops.

"The minor-league teams also took a three-day break for the All-Star Game and we would have fireside barbecues where we sat around a television set and watched the game," Ripken said. "The game seemed larger than life then because I was so far removed from it. The All-Star Game was truly an event then and I hope it still is."

When his dad made it to the majors as an Orioles coach, Ripken was 12 years old and the All-Star Game took on a different look.

"I can remember stuffing the ballot box at Memorial Stadium for my favorite Orioles players," he said. "In those days, it seemed like the Orioles and the Cincinnati Reds were the two teams who were always getting the boxes stuffed in their favor."

Ripken went 0-for-4 last night and is hitting .261 with seven home runs and 35 RBIs.

Alomar went 2-for-4 and is hitting .300 with eight homers and 32 RBIs, and he made only his seventh error last night.

"It's a thrill to play in the All-Star Game no matter what," Alomar said. "It's a dream come true and I'll always remember it. The thrill is not less even though I've been there before."

The AL reserves will be announced today. Orioles first baseman Rafael Palmeiro's chances to make the roster are improved by Cleveland's Jim Thome beating out the New York Yankees' Tino Martinez for the starting spot. Because of injuries, Martinez has struggled at the plate, lessening his chances.

AL starters

Pos. Player, Team ..... Avg. .. HR .. RBI

C R odriguez, Tex. ... .358 ... 10 .. 43

1B Thome, Cle. ....... .329 ... 21 .. 66

2B Alomar, O's ....... .297 .... 8 .. 32

3B Ripken, O's ....... .265 .... 7 .. 35

SS R odriguez, Sea. .. .314 ... 27 .. 66

OF Griffey, Sea. ..... .283 ... 32 .. 71

OF Gonzalez, Tex. .... .297 ... 24 .. 96

OF Lofton, Cle. ...... .280 .... 7 .. 41

Pub Date: 7/01/98

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