The question was about Ripken’s reaction to criticism that his consecutive-games streak — The Streak to so many baseball fans, and all who love the Orioles — was in part a selfish act. To continue the flawed logic, that at times he had put an individual accomplishment in front of his team, when in truth, it was just the opposite.
“I was perplexed by it,’’ Ripken said. “It always was presented that it was my choice, my decision. I’ve always thought that there are intangibles in the game that aren’t quantifiable. When I had Eddie (Murray) as a teammate, if he wasn’t hitting fourth and playing first base, I felt a little naked. I think I played a role similar to that.
“Sometimes, I had to defend myself because I thought it was right to come to the park and play every day. I played with guys who stayed out too late the night before, and then didn’t play the next day. Or guys who asked out of the lineup against a tough pitcher. And very rarely did those guys have to defend themselves. I thought it was ironic that I had to stand up and defend myself for coming to the ballpark and wanting to play.’’
There were other words he could have used, of course. But that was about as critical as you were going to get from Ripken, because for all the numbers and accomplishments — impressive as they were — there was something more to him and his appeal.
The combination of good fortune and uncommon dedication and character gave us something special to hold onto — the type of superstar the game sees less and less of in a new century and phase of its existence; the type that spends an entire career with his hometown team, and ends up in the Hall of Fame.
The .276 career batting average, 3,184 hits, 431 home runs, 1,695 RBI, two Most Valuable Player awards and two All-Star Game MVPs speak for themselves. But Ripken wasn’t always the best player on the field, or even on his own team.
His was a career built more on persistence and dedication than ability — the blue-collar work ethic, the carefully crafted persona that offended nobody, and always looking for a way to bridge the fans to the field.
The Streak — 2,632 games in all — was the focal point of it all, of course, the defining aspect of his legendary career. That’s 16-plus seasons and 502 games (or just more than three full seasons) longer than the streak nobody thought would be broken, Lou Gehrig’s.
And there were a handful of times when it almost ended, such as in the first week of the 1985 season, when he rolled his ankle. He went to the hospital that night, and was given a pair of crutches and told to use them for the next few days. He didn’t, but fortunately, there was an off-day on the schedule, and that was all Ripken needed. Two days later, he was back in the lineup without missing a beat.
More severe was the twisted and sprained right knee sustained in a brawl with the Mariners. The possibility of the streak ending was so real, Ripken called his parents and told them about it. Forty-five minutes later, his parents walked through Ripken’s door. Treatments loosened up the knee, and he was able to play.
“The game has a cool way of testing you,’’ Ripken said. “Early in that game, there was a play to my right. I wasn’t sure I would be able to make it. I caught (the ball), said to myself, ‘here goes’, stuck my foot in the ground (to plant before making a throw), and made the throw to first base.’’
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The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.