Rest for the Ironman Ripken: Consecutive-games streak, like Orioles season itself, inextricably became a burden.

September 24, 1998

THE consecutive games streak that Cal Ripken Jr. ended Sunday had become a metaphor for the Orioles' 1998 season: Something with great promise and anticipation that had somehow gone sour.

Mr. Ripken's eclipse three years ago of a baseball record that many believed would never be broken was hailed as a symbol of the American work ethic. But as The Streak continued, he was criticized as "selfish" for not wanting to take a day off. This derision came in spite of the fact that he continued to be a superb gloveman; a solid, if no longer spectacular, hitter and a model for his teammates, a couple of whom followed his cue to play nearly the entire season.

We, like many fans, were sad to see The Streak end, even though it was clear the show of endurance had become a distraction the player never intended. Some observers cheered that Mr. Ripken got to end the record by his own hand, rather than have injury or a manager decree it. But it was unfortunate that an accomplishment that originated in a player's desire to be in the lineup every day had to end in orchestrated fashion. Unlike much that is phony about sports, there was nothing premeditated about The Streak.

As for the Orioles season, it too turned unpredictably south even before most Marylanders had eaten their first steamed crab. Who would have guessed that the baseball team with the highest payroll in history would stumble so? We miss the electricity that surged through Baltimore the last two autumns when post-season baseball returned. But we're optimistic that a great stadium and the owners' willingness to invest in a winning team will continue to generate excitement for Orioles fans.

Pub Date: 9/24/98

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