Two decades later, Ripken's record remains a testament to work ethic

Tue Sep 1, 2015 11:46am EDT
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By Steve Ginsburg

(Reuters) - Twenty years after breaking the record for consecutive games played, Cal Ripken, Jr. insists the reason the feat remains one of baseball's most cherished moments is because it involved a trait the average person can understand: a strong work ethic.

"So many people still share their own streak stories with me," Ripken said. "They'll say they work at a plant or a hospital and haven't missed a day in 31 years. Kids with perfect attendance, not just for one year but every year of school.

"People clearly relate the record with the importance of showing up," said Ripken, who is scheduled to throw out the ceremonial first pitch on Sept. 1 as part of a variety of events at Camden Yards to honor the 20th anniversary of the record.

On Sept. 6, 1995, the Baltimore Orioles infielder eclipsed the streak of the legendary Lou Gehrig, delighting not just the adoring crowd at Baltimore's Oriole Park at Camden Yards but baseball fans everywhere.

No one, however, was more excited that late summer evening than Bud Selig, Major League Baseball's commissioner at the time who was desperately seeking an elixir to the game's woes.

Baseball was just coming off a strike season that saw the World Series canceled over labor issues between rich players and even richer owners. Fans seethed. Enter Ripken, one of the game's most beloved players, to get them excited again.

"It was a great moment in baseball history," recalled Selig, who was at the game. "It was an emotional night. And it was an important moment in our recovery from the year before.

"Not only did he break a record nobody thought possible, he did it with dignity and class. I'll never forget Cal's trip around the field. To be there was a moment in your life you will never, ever forget."   Continued...

Baltimore Orioles Cal Ripken Jr. hits a base hit in the eighth inning of his record 2,131st consecutive game in Baltimore, Maryland in a September 6, 1995 file photo. REUTERS/Gary Hershorn/Files