The next two days in Baltimore will be linked to the 25th anniversary of Cal Ripkin Jr.'s breaking of Lou Gerhig's record for most consecutive major league baseball games played. On September 5th Cal tied Gerhig's record games 2130 and he broke the record games 2131 on September 6th. This record is considered the hardest sport's record to break and in a poll of sports fans it was selected as the most memorable sports moment of all time.
Our family has been indirectly and directly tied to Cal Ripkin Jr. Cal was born August 24, 1960, one day before I turned 10 and one of my daughters shares the same August 24th birthdate. Growing up baseball was a passion and I played almost every Spring and Summer day as a kid as we had a baseball field across from our house. Most of the games were pickup games among kids in town but eventually many of us moved on to organized baseball with Little League, Teen baseball and high school baseball. As an adult, the lack of adult baseball leads most baseball players to softball that I played for 22 years.
Moving to the Baltimore area in 1977 and looking to follow a baseball team the Baltimore Orioles seemed like the logical choice to adopt as the team to follow. In 1981 Cal Ripkin joined the Orioles and because he played shortstop, my playing position, I started to follow his progress in the box score each day. When he was selected as Rookie of the Year and followed it up with Most Valuable Player the next year it cemented my interest in following his career.
As my daughters started to play softball my following of Cal Ripkin became their interest too. Going to Oriole games at Camden Yards became a family event. Wearing number 8 became the number that every player in the Baltimore area wanted to wear. For one of my daughter's 16th birthday her choice to celebrate was to go to an Oriole game with friends. What she didn't know was that I had them driven to Camden Yards in a limousine and I still remember her look when the limousine pulled up in the driveway. I had also gotten tickets from a friend behind home plate in the row right behind Cal's family.
Before the 1995 season began I looked at the Oriole schedule and counted the games until Cal would tie and break the record. If everything went right September 5th and 6th would be the games to attend and fortunately the Orioles were in Baltimore for those games. It was possible that rainouts and makeup games could have thrown those dates off as the right games. I went to the Hechts store in the Mall that had a Ticketron office on the first day tickets went on sale and got in line when the office opened at 10 am. Needless to say, everyone else in line was there to buy Oriole tickets for those dates. I felt fortunate to get 2 tickets in left field for both dates. Tickets for those dates sold out by mid-morning. I held my breath that nothing would change the record-breaking tieing and breaking dates.
I had been to many sports events over the years but I had never experienced the magic of attending those games. There was something electric in the air for both games. Everyone knew that they were going to witness one of the greatest sports records ever. Most sports moments happen unexpectedly but not this moment. To top the evenings off Cal hit home runs both nights that landed a few rows in front of us in left field. The night he hit the home run in the 2131 game a man with a wad of cash rushed up to the person who caught the ball and wanted to buy the ball. The person who caught the ball was quickly escorted by security guards out of the stands. He later gave the ball to Cal and received a bat and signed ball in return. The person who caught the home run in the 2130 game sold his at auction for $41,000.
As we left the stadium both nights baseball collectors tried to buy our tickets because they knew the tickets were worth money. The farther you went in the parking lot the higher the price was. I turned down $75 for each ticket. I later framed some pictures and the tickets for each of my daughters to have to remember the night.
Not only does Ripkin hold the consecutive game record but also holds the consecutive innings played record. Cal's father was the Oriole manager at the time this streak ended. He probably was the one person who could have had the courage to end that streak. He thought it was needed to continue the game streak.
From June 1982 through September 1987, Ripken played in 8,243 consecutive innings. The player whose record he broke played during the 19th century, George Pinkney (5,152 consecutive innings from 1885-1890 for the Brooklyn Bridegrooms).