Having to hunker down at home while waiting for the new/novel coronavirus (what are they calling it this week, anyway?) to wane has been tough on all of us. But think about what it might have been like for Cal Ripken Jr. had the pandemic hit our shores during his playing days.
The Iron Man carved out a place for himself among the legends of baseball by just showing up to work every single day. He couldn’t have kept himself in the lineup had he not produced, of course, but by declining to take a day off for 2,632 straight games, Ripken bulled his way through a career that was at once dazzling and utterly relatable. For millions who took pride in being on the job without fail, Ripken served as an emblem of steadfastness and perseverance.
Baseball was shut down for a time during Ripken’s career, specifically the players strike of 1994-95. Indeed, when Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s consecutive-games streak the following season, many believed his achievement helped disillusioned fans to shed their cynicism and love the game again.
Still, one can’t help but wonder how the Iron Man would’ve coped with being kept away from the diamond for months by a bug.
Ripken’s streak, its end and the close of his Hall of Fame career comprise the focus of this week’s “Orioles Classics,” but you’ll see historic moments from other Orioles stars, too. Enjoy!
Thursday, May 28 - 9 a.m. - Throughout much of the 1980s, Ripken and switch-hitting slugger Eddie Murray provided the Orioles’ star power. Having been traded following the miserable 1988 season, Murray reunited with Ripken and the O’s at mid-season in 1996. So Murray was wearing orange and black when he got his 500th career home run, on Sept. 6 off Felipe Lira in a 5-4 loss to the Tigers at Oriole Park.
Thursday, May 28 - 7 p.m. - Speaking of star power, there’s no denying Manny Machado’s. The Florida native set an Orioles record on on Aug. 30, 2016, becoming the youngest player in club history to reach 100 home runs. His blast to left-center with Pedro Álvarez aboard broke a 1-1 tie in the fifth inning, and the Orioles would go on to defeat the Blue Jays 5-3.
Friday, May 29 - 4 p.m. - The Orioles snatched a walk-off win over the Red Sox on April 25, 2015. Zack Britton had a rare blown save in the ninth, sending the game to extras, and when Xander Bogaerts hit a leadoff homer off Brad Brach in the 10th, things looked grim for the homestanding O’s. But with former Oriole Koji Uehara trying to close it out for the Sox, Adam Jones tripled to lead off the home half and Chris Davis brought him home with a sac fly. That brought David Lough - who had entered the game as a pinch-runner in the eighth - to the plate, and he homered to give the Birds a 5-4 victory.
Saturday, May 30 - 7 p.m. - Machado secured a place in a very exclusive club on Aug. 7, 2016, becoming just the second player in major league history - the first was Carl Reynolds of the White Sox, who did in on July 2, 1930 - to hit home runs in the first, second and third innings of a single game. Needless to say, it wasn’t a good day for White Sox starter James Shields. Machado’s three-run shot in the second inning busted the game wide open and the Orioles cruised to a 10-2 win.
Saturday, May 30 - 11 p.m. - On Sept. 16, 2014, Jones joyously planted pies on the faces of O’s fans hungry for a return to glory. The pastry-fueled friendly fire came after the Orioles clinched their first American League East title since 1997 with an 8-2 win over the Blue Jays at Camden Yards. Steve Pearce and Alejandro De Aza each collected three RBIs on the day, the former with a three-run homer in the first inning and the latter with a bases-loaded triple in the seventh.
Monday, June 1 - 2 p.m. - On Sept. 5, 1995, Ripken equaled a record previously thought untouchable, Gehrig’s mark of playing in 2,130 straight games. And the Iron Man didn’t just play. He went 3-for-5 with a home run as the Orioles clipped the Angels’ wings 8-0. Brady Anderson, Rafael Palmeiro and Chris Hoiles also had three-hit nights.
Monday, June 1 - 6 p.m. - Perhaps the most indelible victory lap in sports history took place at Camden Yards on Sept. 6, 1995 after the Angels made the third out in the top of the fifth with the Orioles up 3-1, making the game official and officially giving Ripken the new record for consecutive games played. He went 2-for-4 and drove in a run in the Birds’ 4-2 victory. Palmeiro homered twice.
Tuesday, June 2 - noon - Ryan Minor never made the Orioles Hall of Fame, but he holds a special place in club history. On Sept. 20, 1998, the 15th-round pick stood in for a legend, filling in at third base while Ripken finally sat one out. Minor went 1-for-4, while Roberto Alomar went 3-for-4 and B.J. Surhoff hit a two-run homer in the O’s 5-4 loss against the Yankees.
Tuesday, June 2 - 4 p.m. - As the 2001 season came to a close, Ripken called it a career amid the well wishes of a capacity crowd at Camden Yards. The O’s could muster little offense against David Cone and the Red Sox on Oct. 6, and the Iron Man went 0-for-3 in his swan song as the Sox finished their season with a 5-1 road win.
Tuesday, June 2 - 7 p.m.- On Sept. 6, 2012, the Orioles hosted the Yankees and honored Ripken on the 17th anniversary of his breaking the consecutive games record previously held by Yanks legend Gehrig. The two clubs also happened to be battling each other for the late-season lead in the AL East. The Orioles jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the first inning, with Matt Wieters’ three-run homer providing the juice. The game seemed well in hand until the eighth, when the Yankees roughed up Randy Wolf and Pedro Strop to score five and tie the game at 6-6. But the O’s came roaring back in the home half as Jones, Mark Reynolds and Davis all homered to give the Birds a 10-6 victory.
Wednesday, June 3 - noon - Mike Devereaux and Hoiles drove in the only two runs of an unusual pitchers’ duel with the Athletics at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on July 13, 1991. O’s starter Bob Milacki had struck out three and walked three but still hadn’t allowed a hit when Johnny Oates pulled him after six innings of work. Mike Flanagan, Mark Williamson and Gregg Olson each worked an inning to complete the rare combined no-hitter.