Numbers put Ripken in elite company

July 22, 1999|By John Eisenberg

Fact: If and when Cal Ripken reaches both milestones of 400 homers and 3,000 hits, he'll become only the seventh player in history to do it. The others are Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, Stan Musial, Eddie Murray, Carl Yastrzemski and -- surprise -- Dave Winfield.

Opinion: So much for the notion that Ripken's consecutive-games streak is his only Hall of Fame credential.

Fact: Even with their attendance down some 3,000 fans per game, the Orioles are still averaging more than the Expos, Twins and White Sox combined.

Opinion: Winfield, a no-doubt Hall of Famer with career totals of 3,110 hits and 465 homers, is the most bungled omission from baseball's All-Century team ballot.

Fact: The Orioles have left more runners on base than any other AL team.

Opinion: Jean Van de Velde, the Frenchman who blew the British Open with a triple-bogey on the 72nd hole, says no one will remember what he did in 20 years. Alas, serious golf fans everywhere will always remember his epic collapse.

Fact: The last time the Orioles unloaded a major veteran player during the season, instead of the other way around? If memory serves, it was in 1988, when they dealt Mike Boddicker and Fred Lynn.

Opinion: The best sports story going? That's easy. It's cancer survivor Lance Armstrong dominating the Tour de France.

Fact: The sports book at Caesar's Palace lists the Ravens as a 20-1 shot to win their division. Only the Eagles (30-1), Bengals (30-1) and Browns (22-1) are given longer odds.

Opinion: If Major League Baseball really wants to improve its umpiring, it needs to make life better for the minor-league umps, who draw miserable salaries and stay in crummy motels. How can the profession attract quality candidates as long as that's the case?

Fact: The balls used in the All-Star Home Run Derby last week were smaller and more tightly wound than normal balls.

Opinion: Andre Agassi's accomplishment of winning all four of tennis' major tournaments will define him as a special player, but when you see him win the French Open and reach the Wimbledon final back-to-back, you realize how much more he could have done.

Fact: The Orioles had more interleague wins (11) than every AL team except Oakland (12) this season.

Opinion: We've got no problem with that influential college basketball reform group deciding not to take on the freshman eligibility issue. What's being proposed -- tying scholarships to graduation rates -- is more important.

Fact (From "Twilight Zone, Sports Div."): David Cone's perfect game was the 20th no-hitter thrown by a one-time New York Mets pitcher wearing another team's uniform. Yet no Met has thrown a no-hitter.

Opinion: You shouldn't get too angry at Frank Robinson for wearing a Cincinnati cap instead of a Baltimore cap as an All-Century team member last week. The Reds gave him his major-league break in 1956, and he hit a lot more home runs for them (324) than for the Orioles (179). The Reds never fired him as their manager, either.

Fact: Think no pitcher, not one, compares to Boston's Pedro Martinez this season? Think again. Arizona's Randy Johnson has allowed two earned runs in his past 49 innings.

Opinion: If the Lakers add Penny Hardaway to go along with Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, Phil Jackson should just turn around and go back to that cabin in Wyoming. Any coach having to juggle those egos should get $20 million a season.

Fact: Greg Swindell, come on down! You've contributed more home run balls than any other pitcher (six) to Ripken's career total of 396.

Opinion: The Orioles are eternally upset about ticket holders selling to out-of-town fans, but high prices at Camden Yards are the root of the problem.

Fact: Matt Riley has 14 walks and 62 strikeouts in 68 innings of pitching at Bowie. Try to stay calm.

Opinion: It's nothing short of miraculous that Ripken never took an errant pitch on the hand and had to miss games until now.

Fact: Greg Maddux is pitching better since undergoing laser surgery to correct a vision problem several weeks ago. Of course, he pitched pretty well with the vision problem for, oh, about a decade.

Opinion: It's hardly a compliment to Orioles manager Ray Miller that six players from his 1998 team, which went 79-83, were 1999 American League All-Stars.

Pub Date: 7/22/99

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