Position: Shortstop; Third baseman
Team: Baltimore Orioles, 1981-2001
Lou Gehrig's long-standing record -- appearing in 2,130 consecutive games -- was simply known as "The Streak," and more than a few baseball experts said it would never be broken. When Cal Ripken attacked it, he didn't just break it, he blew it wide open, appearing for more than three additional seasons without missing a game. In doing so, he earned baseball-wide respect as a consistently valuable performer. He also brought back many fans who had lost interest in the game after the ugly strike of 1994.
In 1990, Ripken began a different kind of
streak: a major-league record 95
games at shortstop.
While challenging "The Streak" caught America's attention, the most significant impact Ripken had on the game was more subtle. He almost singlehandedly redefined the shortstop position as not only the place for "good field, no hit" types, but for tall and strong (and durable) athletes who provided offense as well as defense. Ripken, at 6'4", 225 pounds, styled a new archetype, opening the door for such players as Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Tejada, and Derek Jeter.
Ripken began his version of the streak early in his second season as an Oriole, on May 20, 1982. He finished that season with 28 homers and 93 RBI, and was selected Rookie of the Year. The next year, he became the first player to follow a Rookie of the Year season with an MVP campaign, leading the league in runs and hits while knocking home 102 runs. He also led the Orioles to the World Series championship. He won another MVP crown in 1991.
On September 6, 1995, after not missing a game in more than 13 seasons, he moved past Gehrig in front of a national TV audience and with President Bill Clinton in attendance. Cal homered in the fourth inning, as if to punctuate the event. When the game became official and Gehrig's record fell in the last of the fifth, Cal took a victory lap around Camden Yards, shaking and slapping hands with fans, teammates, and opponents. The lap lasted more than 22 minutes. He went on to extend the streak of consecutive games to 2,632.
Upon retirement, Ripken ranked in the top 20 all time in hits, doubles, RBI, total bases, and games played. He was elected to the Hall on January 9, 2007, in his first year of eligibility, receiving the third highest percentage of votes in history (98.53).
Here are Cal Ripken's major league totals:
|BA||G ||AB ||R ||H ||2B ||3B ||HR ||RBI ||SB |
|.276 ||3,001 ||11,551 ||1,647 ||3,184 ||603 ||44 ||431 ||1,695 ||36 |
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