Remembered for The Streak, Ripken's career was much more - BaltimoreBaseball.com
Rich Dubroff

Remembered for The Streak, Ripken’s career was much more

Photo credit: Joy R. Absalon

Thursday is the 23rd anniversary of Cal Ripken Jr. breaking the unbreakable record. In the years since, no one has challenged his 2,632 consecutive games played.

The current leader in consecutive games played is San Diego’s Freddy Galvis with 303. Galvis would need more than 14 more seasons without taking a rest to pass the Iron Man. Galvis would be 42.

Ripken played long enough ago that a fan would have to be nearly 30 to remember The Streak, which ended Sept. 20, 1998, when Ripken told manager Ray Miller that it was time.

In the years since, his career has often been represented solely by the streak.

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But it was much more. When manager Earl Weaver moved the 6-foot-4 Ripken to shortstop, it paved the way for bigger athletes to play the position. Alex Rodriguez mentioned Ripken’s influence on his career on the Sunday night game last week.

Ripken’s Wins Above Replacement Value (95.9) is 25th in major league history, proving to the sabermetric crowd that he was more than just the Iron Man. He’s one of the few infielders with more than 3,000 hits (3,184) and 400 home runs (431).

In his second complete season, Ripken won the first of two Most Valuable Player awards, and the Orioles won the 1983 World Series. The year before, when the Orioles nearly beat out the Milwaukee Brewers for the AL East title, Ripken was the Rookie of the Year.

Another impressive statement about Ripken’s consistency were the strong seasons he had when the Orioles were struggling.

In 1988, for the moment still the worst season in team history, Ripken suffered through not only the 0-21 start and the 107 losses, but the firing of his father, Cal Sr., who was let go after just six games as the team’s manager.

Ripken hit .264 but had a .372 on-base percentage. Ripken drew a career-high 102 walks while striking out 69 times.

In 1991, Ripken won his second MVP award despite playing for a team that lost 95 games. Ripken set career highs with 34 home runs and 114 RBIs. He also was MVP of the All-Star Game that season and won a Gold Glove.

His WAR that year was an astounding 11.5.

He was the Orioles’ leader in strikeouts with 1,305 until Chris Davis passed him this year in fewer seasons. Ripken never struck out 100 times in a season and had nearly as many bases on balls (1,129) as strikeouts in his career.

Ripken retired after the 2001 season and made a seamless transition to a business career. He’s still in demand as a speaker and corporate spokesman.

But he’ll always be remembered for The Streak, and for being the player who surpassed Lou Gehrig’s mark of 2,130 consecutive games played. On Sept. 5 and Sept. 6 in 1995, the national focus was on Camden Yards and Ripken. He homered in both games, and took his memorable lap around the stadium in consecutive game No. 2,131.

It’s an achievement that will stand the test of time, but it shouldn’t be forgotten that his all-around excellence helped keep The Streak alive.

 

 

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. BIff Pocoroba

    September 4, 2018 at 11:06 am

    So, Hall of Famer Cal Ripken Jr. was actually good? OK, thanks for clearing that up.

    • Orial

      September 4, 2018 at 11:34 am

      What’r you a wiseguy?

      • BIff Pocoroba

        September 4, 2018 at 12:02 pm

        Wise and a guy, yes. And yesterday we learned that it’s better to have the 1st overall pick than the 2nd! Try to follow along

        • Orial

          September 4, 2018 at 1:25 pm

          Not a fan of the writers I guess.

    • Mau

      September 5, 2018 at 8:17 pm

      A wise guy named Biff. LOL. Really?

  2. Orial

    September 4, 2018 at 11:38 am

    Hey Rich let’s fast forward to today. With today’s financial standing as compared to back in the 80s/90s would Cal still be affordable. Hypothetical I realize. Did the O’s of that era actually have more financial clout?

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 4, 2018 at 1:01 pm

      Hi, Orial. That’s an excellent question. In the 1980’s and 1990’s, there wasn’t as much of a financial disparity between the Orioles and the Yankees and Red Sox.

      In 1992, Camden Yards’ first year, the Orioles attendance was more than double the Yankees, and nearly half-again as large as the Red Sox’s. Fenway Park wasn’t a guaranteed sellout in those days.

      Orioles attendance remained strong through the end of Ripken’s career, and while Yankees and Red Sox attendance picked up, the Orioles still drew more. In 1998, the Orioles had the largest payroll in baseball

      The YES network was established in 1999, long before MASN was, and that helped the Yankees’ payrolls grow.

      Ripken never went to free agency. In 1993, he was baseball’s 10th highest paid player at $5.2 million.

      Times are so much different now. I hope this answers your question.

  3. Bancells Moustache

    September 4, 2018 at 1:40 pm

    Of course the Streak will always be Cal’s signature. It’s unbreakable. This isn’t a curmudgeonly “ballplayers today are soft” observation, so much as accepting economics. The money paid to todays ballplayers means that, even if there were a player willing to go 162 every year, the organization wouldn’t allow them to play every day and wear themselves down. If you’re paying a guy 200 mil over seven years, you really want to risk losing your money on a June day-night doubleheader against the Rays?

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 5, 2018 at 9:27 pm

      Bancells, I think clubs don’t want players going 162 without a rest. I can’t imagine a streak reaching even 500 games these days.

  4. Ezrine Tire Award

    September 6, 2018 at 7:08 pm

    I met Cal a few years back at his dad’s foundation gala. I pulled him aside and said “My wife told me to tell you she hasn’t missed a day of work in 35 years other than scheduled vacations and maternity leave.” Cal responded “That’s impressive.”

    • Rich Dubroff

      September 10, 2018 at 12:20 am

      Cal’s right. That is impressive, Ezrine.

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