It seems hard to believe, but it was 15 years ago today that Cal Ripken broke a record they said would never be broken.
He played in consecutive game number 2,131, surpassing Lou Gehrig’s 56-year-old record.
The two-day celebration of 2130 and 2131 at Camden Yards was amazing and was voted Most Memorable Moment in baseball history by a fan vote.
Ripken threw out the first pitch on Sunday in Baltimore and later remembered that special time and those special two days.
“It was a wonderful moment for baseball. I think the timing, after the strike was over, I think everybody wanted to find something that was really good about baseball. The streak became it for that year, so looking back, it still makes you feel pretty good.
“I still live with those really wonderful moments. The lap around the ballpark. Getting to see all the California Angels and hugging my own kids right in the middle of the game, that was pretty special.”
He may be the only one, but Ripken still feels that one day his record of 2,632 consecutive games, a mark that ended in 1998, could be broken.
“If you add it up and say it takes 16 years to get that many games, it seems farfetched, like it couldn’t be done. But I say, if I can do it, certainly somebody else can. There is not much difference playing 162 and playing 158. A lot of guys play 158 games. I would imagine someone else can do it.”
Even if a player played every game for 16 straight years, he would still be 41 games shy of breaking Ripken’s mark.
After surpassing Gehrig, Cal played 502 more consecutive games until that September night in 1998 when Ryan Minor replaced him at third base.
“It was important for me to keep playing with the same attitude that I did coming that night. I never set out to break the record. I thought it was the right way to approach the game. If your manager wants you to play, you play,” Ripken said.
Of all the tributes coming his way after 2,131, Ripken said Jim Gott’s was one of the most memorable. He insisted Ripken take the ball from his first Major League win on May 30, 1982. That happened to be game one of the streak.
“I kept telling him no, you keep that, it’s your first big league win. I thought it was way too kind of a gesture. To him it was symbolic. There were many acts of kindness during the streak, but I’m still overwhelmed by that one. I’d still give it back to him. Maybe he’ll accept it back on the 15th anniversary.”
Ripken got to share his record with his family and Cal Sr. was at Camden Yards for those magical two nights. He’s gone now, but never far from Junior’s thoughts.
“I had many moments during that celebration when I connected with him. When he died, it felt like he may have left you. But I found out since then, everything we do with kids and everything we do with our minor league teams and stuff, he’s right there along with us.
“Dad would be extremely proud. Really, he was most proud when kids were learning baseball. That’s really what we’ve been able to give them with our complexes and our minor league teams have been wonderful projects as well. I grew up the first 14 years with dad as a minor league manager. It all has dad’s feel to it, all over the place.”