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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Cal Ripken Jr: The milestone of consecutive games

Por Fidel Orihuela

Back in 1995, Carl Ripken Jr. had a secure spot in the Cooperstown Hall of Fame. The North American ball player, at his 35 years old, had more than 300 home runs, more than 2300 hits, more than 1200 runs, 13 All-star games, 2 Most Valuable Player(MVP) Awards, 8 Silver Slugger Awards and 2 Gold Gloves. But as if all of these awards were not enough, the boy from Havre de Grace, Maryland, had in 1995, the biggest amount of consecutive games in the MLB, a total of 2131, all of them wearing the uniform of the Baltimore Orioles, the team in which he always played.

On September 6th, 1995, Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s record of 2130 successive games. The great slugger from the New York Yankees got his impressive chain of games between 1925 and 1939, over half a century ago, which makes Ripken’s feat even more impressive. The Orioles’ shortstop started his winning streak on May, 1982 and by 1995 he had already surpassed Gehrig’s record, which could have happened before if it wasn’t for the longest strike in the history of the MLB, which lasted 232 days and because of it the season ended August 11, 1994, and it made it impossible to play the post season or the World Series, something that did not happen since 1904.

Cal went back in 1995 and kept his steady pace to the triumph, even though he was about to lose his consecutiveness. Because of the strike, MLB considered the possibility of using replacements if the players maintained the strike. Peter Angelos, the owner of the Baltimore Orioles, rejected this option. Ripken then found himself in an impossible predicament, because he could not ask his fellow players to stop the strike. He was about to lose his dream of exceeding Lou Gehrig’s achievements but fortunately, on April the 2nd, 1995, the strike ended and Cal went back to play.

Just a few months after that, came the magic night of September the 6th, in which he finally broke Lou’s record in a duel between Baltimore and the California Angels. That game would be one of the most seen in the history of the MLB. His daughter Rachel and his son Ryan throw the first pitch, while Bill Clinton, president of the USA at the time, and vice president Al Gore, watched from their seats. Ripken received a standing ovation from the fans and he had to run the field before the game started. “Rafael Palmeiro and Bobby Bonilla stood in front of the dog out and they told me that if I didn’t do it the game would never start”, has said Ripken over the years about that night. By the way, his unstoppable history would last for many years, to the point of achieving the unthinkable barrier of 2600 consecutive games, an absolute world record.

Just to have an idea of Ripken’s feat: he did not only extend his record to 2632 successive games. Between the years of 1982 and 1987, he also played 8243 consecutive innings, breaking George Pinkney’s record, which dated from the nineteen century, when Pinkney played for 5 152 innings with the Brooklyn Bridegrooms. The end of Cal’s mark arrived on September 20, 1998, when no one was really expecting it. His reliever that day was Ryan Minor, who would be remembered by this fact and not because he was selected by the NBA and the MLB Drafts.

In the midst of a terrible campaign for the Orioles, Ripken decided to stop without previous notice, which does not diminish his outstanding achievement. In history, only Gehrig and the Japanese player Sachio Kinugasa, from the Nippon Professional Baseball(NPB), made it over 2000 consecutive games. Apart from them, others have obtained important chains but no one has ever achieved what Ripken did. He was literally, almost 20 years playing baseball continuously.