Waiting for Ripken to break HR record

Seat: Tyler Rathvon let Cal's bouncing double bounce right off him

his dad, on the other hand, was disappointed at not seeing No. 400.

July 30, 1999|By Chris Kaltenbach | Chris Kaltenbach,SUN STAFF

John Rathvon and his 8-year-old son, Tyler, were there the night Cal's streak became a record-breaker. He's got tubs full of Cal memorabilia in his Lancaster, Pa., basement (his wife, obviously missing the point, once asked, "How much Cal stuff can you have?"), framed pictures of Cal on the wall and 18 years of memories of watching his favorite Oriole slug his way steadily toward the 400 home-run milestone.

You have to ask where he was yesterday afternoon?

"I was watching the game last night on HTS, and I was hoping he wouldn't hit it out," Rathvon was saying as Ripken stepped to the plate in the third inning yesterday to take his first try for the day at hitting No. 400. "I mean, we've been here for all his other things, I wanted to be here for this one."

John and Tyler were here -- Section 96, Row N, Seat 14, the much-fabled bleacher seat that The Sun has been chronicling all season long. Unfortunately, Cal's home-run bat wasn't -- at least, not officially. Both John and Tyler, as well as some 43,000 other fans, believe in their hearts that Cal's third-inning blast to left cleared the fence, bouncing off a fan and rebounding onto the field. Third-base umpire Joe Brinkman disagreed, ruling the ball bounced off the wall, limiting Cal to a double. Fans in and around the Rathvons were too far away to disagree conclusively, but that didn't stop them from being disappointed.

Oh, well, such is life with the '99 Orioles.

Tyler, the one actually in seat 14, wasn't going to let that bother him. Sure, the Orioles ended up losing, 3-1, able to scratch out only two hits off a guy coming in with a career record of 131-176. Sure, it looks likely Cal will break the 400-homer barrier on the road. And sure, those red-faced blowhards sitting two rows behind Tyler barely shut up the whole game, sarcastically bellowing "We Love You, Albert!" at the tops of their lungs.

(If Albert Belle had made obscene gestures at these guys, no court in the land would have convicted him.)

But Tyler had himself a fine time, even if his left arm was in a cast (he fell off a wagon two weeks ago). He bopped along to the beat of "We Will Rock You," shouted out the lyrics of "Y.M.C.A." and clapped as well as his broken bones would allow.

Even when it was all over, Tyler insisted it was "OK. I had fun."

His dad, however, was another matter.

"I tell you, that first one Cal hit," John Rathvon said with a wistful smile, "I thought it was out."

Pub Date: 7/30/99

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