No last ups on friendship for teammate Anderson

His strikeout ends game with Ripken on deck

October 07, 2001|By Gary Lambrecht | Gary Lambrecht,SUN STAFF

Brady Anderson has admired Cal Ripken for as long as he can remember, and the friendship the two have enjoyed has given way to fascination in Anderson's eyes.

Anderson recalls seeking Ripken's advice when he was a free agent after the 1997 season. Should he stay or should he go?

As is typical of Ripken, the virtually certain Hall of Famer did not give a snap answer. He went home, considered Anderson's question and laid out career options when the pair talked the next day.

As Anderson prepared to watch his teammate finish a sterling career last night, he talked of the countless moments with Ripken over the years, the bond that developed between them as Anderson played more games with Ripken than any other Oriole, the examples Ripken imparted just by playing the game the right way, every day.

"He's my personal study in human behavior. He's still the same person, the way he conducts his life," Anderson said of Ripken. "He's extremely intelligent. He won't give you an answer just to get rid of you. Cal is always open for you. He's never going to act like, because he's an MVP or a perennial All-Star, you have to listen to what he has to say.

"It's nice to see how appreciated he is while he's still playing. If people really knew him, he would be even more appreciated. The real person is even better in this case. It's hard to accumulate a bunch of best friends. I have very few I can consider my best friends, and Cal is one of them."

By the time Ripken had broken into the big leagues with the Orioles in 1981, Anderson was preparing for his senior year at Carlsbad (Calif.) High School. By the time Anderson came to Baltimore in a trade with the Boston Red Sox during the 1988 season, the Orioles were beginning a rebuilding phase and Ripken already had won a World Series and Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards.

Since then, Ripken has redefined shortstop as a position that power hitters could play, and has rewritten the record books for longevity, having played in 2,632 consecutive games. If you don't think Ripken has had an effect on his peers, ask Anderson.

"Other players take pride in playing hurt and want to have that one season when you play in 162 games. I've never been able to do it," said Anderson, who came closest in 1992 by playing in 159. "I go into every season thinking this is the year I play 162. That's a pretty good lesson you can learn from a teammate, whether he talks to you or teaches you by example."

Anderson, who has struggled all season with a batting average hovering around .200, wondered if an elbow injury would keep him out of last night's game. But he decided he had to play a game that could be his last in Baltimore.

Batting in front of Ripken in the No. 6 slot, Anderson went on to produce two hits in four at-bats, including a double he unsuccessfully tried to stretch into a triple. Anderson also wound up last night's 5-1 loss to Boston by striking out, leaving Ripken standing in the on-deck circle. Ripken rubbed Anderson's head and said a few words of encouragement as the two walked off the field together for the last time.

"It was pretty much like any other at-bat, aside from the fact that there were 50,000 people chanting, `We want Cal!' Anderson said. "It would have been great to give him one more at-bat. Cal told me it was a good at-bat. He said there was way more pressure on me than there was on him."

The Orioles, who owe Anderson $4 million for next season on the final year of his $31 million, five-year contract, may choose to release him. Anderson made $7 million this year while producing the lowest numbers of hits, extra-base hits, home runs and RBIs since becoming an everyday player in 1992.

"It's been a brutal struggle for me this year. This could be my last game here, too," said Anderson, 37. "I've never been the type to worry about what my fate is going to be. I'll accept it as it comes. I'm actually looking forward to the challenge of coming back and having a great season."

Ripken and ...

Orioles who have played the longest with Cal Ripken:

Yrs. Teammate When

14 Brady Anderson 1988-2001

10 Chris Hoiles 1989-98

10 Mike Mussina 1991-2000

9 Mike Flanagan 1981-87, 1991-92

9 Alan Mills 1992-98, 2000-01

9 Eddie Murray 1981-88, 1996

9 Arthur Rhodes 1991-99

8 Mike Boddicker 1981-88

8 Jim Dwyer 1981-88

8 Scott McGregor 1981-88

8 Mark Williamson 1987-94

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