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On This Date in Sports: September 6, 1995: 2131

In collaboration with the Sportsecyclopedia.com

Cal Ripken Jr. of the Baltimore Orioles becomes baseball’s ultimate ironman by playing in his 2,131st consecutive game. The streak, which began on May 30, 1982, tops the record of consecutive games played by Lou Gehrig, a record that was once viewed as unbreakable. Ripken goes 2-for-4 with a home run as the Orioles beat the California Angels 4-2. Cal Ripken’s streak would end in 1998 at 2,632 consecutive games. 

 Cal Ripken Jr. was born to be a Baltimore Oriole on August 24, 1960, in Havre de Grace, Maryland. His father was a longtime minor leaguer and coach within the Orioles farm system. A star at nearby Aberdeen High School, Ripen was drafted by the Orioles in the second round of the 1978 draft. Three years later, Cal Ripken Jr. made his debut with Baltimore, following the 1981 Player’s Strike. A year later, he won Rookie of the Year in his first full season, hitting .264 with 28 home runs and 93 RBI. In 1983, Ripken won the first of two MVP awards, helping the Orioles win the World Series with a .318 average, 27 homers, and 102 RBI.

 It was during his rookie season the Cal Ripken Jr’s streak began as he missed just two games, including the second game of a doubleheader on Memorial Day Weekend at Memorial Stadium against the Toronto Blue Jays. The following day, May 30, 1982, with no fanfare began the greatest iron man streak in baseball history. In the early years of the streak, Ripken not only played every game but also played every inning, as he soon became the face of Orioles. During this time, he was joined on the team by his brother Billy Ripken, while his father served as manager for parts of two seasons.

The streak began in the best of times as the Orioles were a perennial contender, and won the 1983 World Series. It continued through some lean times too, as the Orioles lost their first 21 games in 1988, leading to Cal Ripken Sr. firing as manager and rumors that Cal Ripken Jr. would soon leave Baltimore too, as he was rumored to have nearly been traded to the New York Mets in 1988. The streak saw the last days of baseball at Memorial Stadium, as Ripken won a second MVP in 1991. It continued into Camden Yards, the first of a new wave of modern-retro ballparks that would transform the look of the game.

 A decade into the streak, people began to wonder if Cal Ripken Jr. could break the streak of 2,130 games played by New York Yankees legend Lou Gehrig. A streak that started in 1925 and only came to an end in 1939 with the tragic diagnosis he had ALS. While people began to discuss Gehrig’s streak seriously, others criticized Ripken, especially when he went through a prolonged slump in 1992 and 1993. It was on June 7, 1993. The streak nearly came to an end when Ripken hyperextended his knee a day earlier during a bench-clearing brawl against the Seattle Mariners. A game-time decision, he was only able to play after a day of treatment, believing that the streak was going to end.

 The streak continued into the 1994 season, and then came the strike. A Player’s strike that began on August 12th and led to the cancellation of the playoffs and World Series. After a nuclear winter, owners decided to use replacement players to start the 1995 season. A decision that would have torpedoed the streak just as Ripken was closing in on the record. Orioles owner Peter Angelos however, refused to field a team and was willing to forfeit every game if the scabs were still used when the regular season began. Fortunately, that never became an issue, as New York District Judge Sonya Sotomayor granted the Player’s Association an injunction, which ended the strike.

 The record-breaking game set up perfect for Cal Ripken Jr. as it was the final game of a homestand on Wednesday Night against the California Angels. At 56-65, the Orioles were out of the race under manager Phil Regan while the Angels, managed by Marcel Lachman, were trying to hold on to first place in the AL West with a record of 68-54. As the game began, the numbers 2130 were on the warehouse, indictive of the record that Ripken tied the night before a record that had been set by Lou Gehrig of the New York Yankees before falling victim to ALS. Mike Mussina got the start for Baltimore, while Shawn Boskie took the mound for the Angels. 

In the first inning, Tim Salmon hit a home run to give California an early lead. The Orioles would answer back right away as Rafael Palmeiro homered in the bottom of the first. In the fourth inning, the Orioles took the lead on a home run by Bobby Bonilla. One batter later, Cal Ripken came to the plate, while President Bill Clinton was in the Orioles radio booth and hit a home run to make it a 3-1 score in favor of Baltimore. 

 With the Orioles up 3-1, the Angels went down in order in the fifth inning, as Damion Easley popped up to Manny Alexander at second base, to make in an official game. At the point, the game was stopped, and the number on the warehouse switched to 2,131 as Cal Ripken Jr. took a lap around the field. In the seventh inning, Palmeiro hit a second home run to extend the lead to 4-1. The Angels would get a second run in the eight when Salmon doubled home Jim Edmonds. Jesse Orosco came into and got the final four outs for the Orioles to earn the save, as lined out to Brady Anderson in center to end the game, a 4-2 Orioles win. 

 The Cal Ripken streak as a seminal moment for the tumultuous 1995 season and brought back fans that had not watched all season after being jilted by the strike. Ripken would carry the streak for another three years before deciding to end it late in 1998, after 2,632 consecutive games.