Sunday, September 06, 2015

The day, twenty years ago, that Cal Ripken, Jr. showed up for work.

Once in awhile, sports can provide us with a transcendent moment, something more than parochial physicality.

One such moment may have occurred this date, twenty years ago, on 6 September 1995.

On that evening, Cal Ripken, Jr. —shortstop for the Orioles baseball team in Baltimore, Maryland— would show up for work for the two-thousandth one-hundred and thirty-first consecutive time, setting a new record for the most consecutive occasions, in the history of Major League Baseball, that one person had played that game.

Baseball has plenty of records, but some always stand out. Part of the reason is the accomplishment itself, but who has held them is just as important. And just as 60 home runs always meant Babe Ruth and a 56-game hitting streak always meant Joe DiMaggio, 2,130 consecutive games played always meant [Lou] Gehrig.

It was one of the game's unbreakable records, and with good reason. For 40 years after Gehrig's career ended because of the disease that would eventually carry his name, no one came within 900 games of catching him.

The 1983 season was [Baltimore Orioles shortstop] Cal Ripken's second full year in the big leagues, and the first in which he played all 162 games. It was also the year he won his only World Series and the first of his two American League Most Valuable Player awards.

By the time he won the MVP again in 1991, Ripken was within 500 games of catching Gehrig, and the Iron Man legacy was building. At that point, though, it was still secondary to his reputation as one of MLB's best players.

Sometime around 1995, and maybe exactly on that magical night of Sept. 6, the dynamic flipped. Fans still celebrated Ripken for the way he played the game, but more than anything they remembered him as the guy who never missed a game.

Ripken Jr. made the night all the more memorable with a home run. "I said a long time ago that to be remembered at all is pretty special," he said. He'll be remembered for ages, and his record will be, too.

Ripken's streak ended in 1998 at 2,632 games, which, at 162 games per season, takes a little more than 16 years.
Bleacher Report

That evening, twenty years ago, today, Cal Ripken, Jr. showed up for work, and a standing-room-only crowd at Oriole Park at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland, rewarded him with a twenty-two minute ovation. It may have been just a game, but the folk there (and many, elsewhere) cheered for him for that most Ben Franklin-esque of American traits: the value of hard work.

So, why not America, this weekend, twenty years to the day, why not cheer for all who show up for work? Why not respect the intrinsic value of each and every American's labor, no matter how grand or quotidian the job?

This weekend, let's rededicate our nation to rewarding all Americans for their worth and for their basic human dignity, as we remember that capital without labor has little utility.

This weekend, America, let's honor Labor Day. And, while we're at it, give our (non-baseball!) laborers the day off.

"I've seen a lot of things in professional sports, but never in my life have I ever seen anything like this," said Hall-of-Fame announcer Jon Miller.

  • Ripken called it quits on his 21-year career at the end of 2001. Along with his amazing streak, he clubbed an impressive 431 home runs, including a record 345 as a shortstop. He also ranked among the all-time leaders with 3,001 games played, 3,184 hits and 603 doubles. When his time came for enshrinement in the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007, he was named on 98.5 percent of the ballots cast, the third-highest percentage in history.
  • Watch the entire game, in which the Baltimore Orioles defeated the California Angels, 4-2: here.
  • I created the video clip using the app, TubeChop.
  • The song played on the stadium sound system during Mr. Ripken's 'victory' lap was Whitney Houston singing "One Moment in Time."
    Give me one moment in time
    When I'm more than I thought I could be
    When all of my dreams are a heartbeat away
    And the answers are all up to me
    Give me one moment in time
    When I'm racing with destiny
    Then in that one moment of time
    I will be free.
  • On a personal note, I was fortunate enough to have been living there in Baltimore when this happened. I attended the game the day before, when Mr. Ripken tied Mr Gehrig's heretofore believed impossible-to-break-record. On that next day of game 2131, I was in a Baltimore pub, close enough to hear the the incredible roars of the crowd, but unable to because of the incredibel joy of the crowd immediately around me.

  • For more from YFGF:

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