Bat, glove help solidify status as O's legend

The Ripken Years : 1984

Baseball

September 13, 2001|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

When the Detroit Tigers won 35 of their first 40 games in 1984, building a huge lead in the American League East when no wild card existed, there wasn't much for the Orioles to focus upon besides individual accomplishments.

The pennant race had become an illusion, with the Tigers leaving the blocks about a month ahead of the other entrants. But Cal Ripken still showed up every day, still expected to be in the lineup.

And he still added to his growing legacy.

Coming off his MVP season and possessing a new, four-year contract that paid him about $4 million, Ripken batted .304 with 27 homers, 86 RBIs and 103 runs scored while again playing every inning of every game. He set the American League record for assists with 583, and led the club by hitting .311 with runners in scoring position.

He also had replaced pitcher Jim Palmer, who was released on May 15, as the team's poster boy by endorsing milk and hot dogs to cultivate a wholesome image that further won over fans.

If only the Orioles could have won more than 85 games, which weren't nearly enough to catch the Tigers. But Ripken made it easier to overlook the club's shortcomings.

The 1984 season marked his first start in an All-Star Game. By playing every inning for the second straight season, he accomplished something that hadn't been done since 1940 and 1941 by Detroit's Rudy York. His consecutive-games streak stood at 442, second in the majors to Atlanta's Dale Murphy (495) and third longest in club history.

Ripken also joined childhood idol Brooks Robinson as the only Orioles to hit for the cycle, and the first AL shortstop since Kansas City's Fred Patek in 1971.

Among his other accomplishments: Ripken walked 71 times, at the time his highest total. He slugged eight home runs in April while the Tigers were fading from view. And he reached base 11 straight times (seven hits, four walks) from Aug. 29 to Sept. 1 during a West Coast trip.

Former third baseman Wayne Gross once said, "It seemed like the second year he played, he'd been there 10." Nobody would argue.

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