Ripken, Cal, Jr.

Ripken, Cal, Jr.
▪ 1996

      On Sept. 6, 1995, at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Md., the Baltimore Orioles had a night game against the California Angels. After the national anthem was sung, Oriole player Cal Ripken, Jr., ran out to his usual spot at shortstop; in the fifth inning of the game, he broke Lou Gehrig's 56-year-old major league record of 2,130 consecutive games played. There was, of course, all the hoopla one would expect for such historical occasions, but none of it could outshine the simple grace of Ripken, who seemed the very model of the soft-spoken, hard-nosed ballplayer. His new record of 2,131 consecutive games played underscored the youthful heart of the game—just playing.

      Great achievements in sport do not come easily, and Ripken's streak was no exception. It began on May 30, 1982, and over the course of the next 13 seasons, Ripken played through injuries, slumps (both personal and team), and personnel changes, including the dismissals of his father, Cal Sr., as manager of the Orioles in 1988 and of his brother, Billy, a second baseman in 1992. His streak even survived the players strike of 1994-95. Some critics felt he was unfit to replace the great Gehrig as baseball's "Iron Horse," but Ripken, who was not the storied hitter that Gehrig was, proved his worth both at shortstop, where he set the record for consecutive innings played at 8,243 (1982-87) and won two Gold Glove awards (1991-92), and at the plate, where his career batting average of .276 included 327 home runs, 1,267 runs-batted-in, and 2,371 hits. In 1983 and 1991 he won the American League's Most Valuable Player award.

      Calvin Edwin Ripken, Jr., was born on Aug. 24, 1960, in Havre de Grace, Md. Much of his youth was spent in ball parks with his father, who was a minor league catcher and manager in the Oriole organization, and Ripken chose early on to be a ballplayer. He was selected in the second round of the 1978 free-agent draft by the Orioles and after four seasons in the minor leagues made his major league debut in August 1981. The following year, his first full season in the majors, Ripken won the American League Rookie of the Year award. During his career he played in the All-Star Game 12 years in a row and was named that game's Most Valuable Player in 1991. Ripken also held major league single-season records in highest fielding percentage by a shortstop (.996 in 1990), fewest errors by a shortstop (3 in 1990), and most consecutive games without an error by a shortstop (95 in 1990). (JAMES HENNELLY)

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▪ American baseball player
in full  Calvin Edwin Ripken, Jr.,  byname  Iron Man 
born Aug. 24, 1960, Havre De Grace, Md., U.S.

      American professional baseball player, one of the most durable in professional sports history. On Sept. 6, 1995, Ripken played his 2,131st consecutive games for the American League Baltimore Orioles and thereby broke Lou Gehrig (Gehrig, Lou)'s major league record of consecutive games played. Gehrig's record had stood for more than 56 years.

      Ripken joined the Orioles' major league team in 1982 after having spent a few seasons in their minor league system. Ripken's original position was third base, but he switched to shortstop in 1982. He was named American League Rookie of the Year in that year, when he hit 28 home runs and had 93 runs batted in (RBIs). He holds the record for most career home runs by a shortstop, 345.

      Ripken was voted Most Valuable Player (MVP) in 1983, when he led the Orioles to a World Series title. He also won the MVP award in 1991. His father, Cal Ripken, Sr., was an Orioles coach for 15 years and briefly managed the team. In 1987 Cal, Sr., became the first father ever to manage two sons in a major league game: Cal, Jr., and Billy, an infielder.

      It is the streak of consecutive games played, however, that characterized Ripken's career. Gehrig's mark of 2,130 consecutive games played was thought by some baseball experts to be unreachable in modern times. Ripken not only surpassed Gehrig's record but extended his streak to 2,632 games before he removed himself from the lineup before the final game of the 1998 season, the first time he had sat out a game in almost 18 years. He retired from baseball at the end of the 2001 season. He was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007.

      Ripken's biography, The Only Way I Know (1997), was written with Mike Bryan.

Robert William Verdi

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