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Archive for Wednesday, September 7, 2005

Commentary: O’s relive Ripken’s amazing feat

Hall of Famer honored Tuesday in Baltimore for playing in 2,131 consecutive games

September 7, 2005

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— The 10-foot high numbers on the warehouse beyond the right-field scoreboard at Camden Yards read "2130."

In the middle of the fifth inning, when the game became official, the zero was covered by a 1.

Before that familiar backdrop, Cal Ripken was honored by the Baltimore Orioles on Tuesday, the 10th anniversary of the night he broke Lou Gehrig's record of playing in 2,130 straight games.

"Everywhere you go around the country, people relate to the consecutive-games streak in one shape or form, whether it's school or how they approach their job," Ripken said after the ceremony. "I'm still pretty amazed that it became a symbol. I didn't think it was that big a deal."

On Sept. 6, 1995, Cal Ripken formally became The Iron Man. No man had ever played in 2,131 consecutive games, and it's likely no one will do it again.

"You wonder if he's even human," joked Orioles catcher Javy Lopez, who was a member of the Atlanta Braves in 1995. "How can I forget that night? It was a moment where every channel was showing the same thing. It was pretty emotional."

At the conclusion of the half-hour ceremony that preceded the Orioles' game against Toronto, Ripken threw the first pitch to current shortstop Miguel Tejada, who played in his 894th straight game - the longest current streak in the majors.

If Tejada continued, he would reach 2,131 sometime during the 2013 season and still would be 500 games short of Ripken's final total of 2,632.

The game people remember most was the one that ended Gehrig's seemingly unbreakable streak.

On the night he entered baseball's record book, Ripken wore an Orioles uniform with No. 8 on the back. For the anniversary, he wore a gray sports jacket, black shirt and black pants, and dress shoes that made it virtually impossible for him to duplicate the lap he took around the field a decade ago.

"There's a lot of magic stepping on the field," he said. "When you start to describe the stories, you can actually visualize where you started your lap, where your kids were sitting or where your dad was in the skybox. That makes the memory a little more intense."

Upon being introduced to the crowd, Ripken received a lengthy standing ovation. He then answered a few questions, while gripping a baseball in his left hand.

He concluded by saying, "Ah, 2131. It was a pretty good baseball moment. It was a better sports moment."

Orioles interim manager Sam Perlozzo, who then was the third-base coach of the Seattle Mariners, said, "It brought a tear to my eye to watch that.

"The most amazing thing was how Cal could keep his composure in that sort of circumstance."

Perhaps the most memorable aspect of the night was the lap around the field. Ripken wasn't sure how to respond to the roar of the sellout crowd, so teammates Rafael Palmeiro and Bobby Bonilla came up with a solution: They pushed him on his way on a victory lap.

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