In 4th year, production, popularity on the rise

The Ripken Years: 1985

Baseball

September 14, 2001|By Roch Kubatko | Roch Kubatko,SUN STAFF

Jim Palmer had retired after a month in 1984. Al Bumbry and Ken Singleton were released after that season.

Cal Ripken needed big hands to carry all the torches that were passed to him in 1985.

Given additional responsibilities with the loss of some trusted veterans, Ripken placed first or second on the team in 12 offensive categories. Continuing to redefine his position, Ripken also led major-league shortstops in home runs, RBIs, runs and slugging percentage.

And, of course, a consecutive-games streak kept building. It reached 603, surpassing Brooks Robinson (463) and Eddie Murray (444) for first place on the club's all-time list. Among the witnesses were Fred Lynn, a free-agent acquisition who upheld his reputation for being fragile by appearing in only 124 games because of injuries, and Earl Weaver, lured out of retirement in midseason after Joe Altobelli was fired as manager.

Ripken also ran his consecutive-innings streak to 5,457, but he was more than just durable. He remained productive, as well, batting .282 with 26 homers and 110 RBIs.

Few fans remember that Ripken almost beat Lynn to the bench after spraining his left ankle on April 10. The injury occurred when Ripken took a throw from Mike Boddicker on an attempted pickoff. Ripken completed the inning, and the game, after taping his ankle.

The Streak survived in large part because of the schedule. The Orioles played an exhibition game the next day, which Ripken spent on crutches. He remained in the lineup for the next official game, much to the amazement of Lynn.

"No question, he is blessed physically," Lynn said, "but he's got a high mental constitution as well.

"The guy," Lynn added, "he's made of iron."

Ripken became the first Oriole to score at least 100 runs in three seasons. He also continued to thrive with runners in scoring position, batting .321, and collected the most American League All-Star votes.

He also led the majors in double plays converted (123) for a third straight year, and the American League in putouts (286) for the second consecutive season. But as if to prove himself human, Ripken also set a club record by hitting into 32 double plays.

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