Miller regretfully pencils ending Manager hopes moment doesn't define his career

The Streak -- It's Over

September 21, 1998|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Of all the things Ray Miller wants to be remembered for in a professional baseball career that began in 1964, this isn't one of them.

Though it wasn't his call to end The Streak, he'll forever be known as the manager of record when it happened. Cal Ripken walked into Miller's office about 30 minutes before the game and asked to be taken out of the lineup. Miller obliged, and the rest is history.

Not long before, Miller had sat behind the desk in his office, twirling a cigar in his fingers and relaying his intentions of starting Ripken for the last week of the season. The only adjustment would be some early exits to weave in a young player like Ryan Minor.

"As far as this year goes, God willing, his streak is intact," Miller said.

Ripken wasn't willing, putting the brakes on a streak that had churned along for 2,632 games.

Miller already had said it would need to be "adjusted" next season. The end was near. He just had no idea how close.

"It was pretty emotional for me," he said. "Cal and I had talked a few times this year and I fully believed that the time would come and I thought Cal deserved the right to have a little while to think about that and when it might come. He walked in today and I had a feeling. He said, 'Today's the day.' "

Miller looked at Ripken and asked, "'Are you sure?' He said, 'I'm sure.' "

And just like that, it was done. Under Miller's watch.

"A lifetime .300 hitter [Bill Buckner] had a ball go through his legs in the World Series in New York and that's all anybody every talks about. That's all they remember about his career," Miller said, hoping for less notoriety.

Miller said he had a sense of what was coming. It was the last home game, an emotional time under any circumstances.

"I just felt it," Miller said. "I thought, if Cal does end it, he's not going to end it on the road. In my mind I thought to myself, he wouldn't do that. He'd do it for the fans here. When he said, 'I've got to see you,' I knew what it was.

"I know that last year it tore his heart out anytime anybody suggested the streak was the reason he wasn't playing well because he doesn't ever want that. I think, in his way, it gives him a chance to now have a couple bad games and come back and get hot and not have anybody throw the streak in his face. I think he deserves that right."

Miller's eyes became moist as he recounted part of their conversation. Their relationship dates back to when Ripken was a kid hanging out with his father at Memorial Stadium, and the bond never seemed stronger than yesterday.

"He told me one of the reasons he did this was me, and that really made me feel good. That's the one time I choked up,"

Miller said. "He said it was his decision for several reasons, 'and one of them was for you.' And that made me feel pretty special."

Miller had called John Maroon, the club's director of public relations, in the press box around 7: 45 and said, "You might

want to come down here right away. It's pretty big."

"I suspected what was going on," Maroon said.

Maroon walked into Miller's office and saw him writing out a new lineup, with Ripken just a few feet away. "This is it," Ripken said. They shook hands.

"Ray seemed great about it," Maroon said. "He was just going about his business. He even made a little joke about someone taking a shot at him."

Pub Date: 9/21/98

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