The Iron Man's Mettle (cont.)
Posted: Friday July 27, 2007 12:18PM; Updated: Friday July 27, 2007 3:45PM
Mike Flanagan: He was very into the game -- all the time. He had an acute curiosity about the game. He always asked a lot of questions. He wanted to know everything. The veterans in the dugout would tell Earl Weaver, "Please put the kid in the game! He's driving us crazy on his off-days." Then the Streak got started.
Cal Ripken Jr.: My approach to the game was not to break Lou Gehrig's record of consecutive games; it really was a culmination of many one-game streaks. I always felt that you came to the ballpark and my responsibility to the team was to be available to the manager to play. That was something that Dad gave me, and it's one of those things that principally I felt was right. When I think back I'm tickled to death that people recognize you and remember you and think that you made a positive contribution to the sport in any way. It could be the simplest way; it could be the biggest way. So if someone wants to remember me for the sake of the Streak, or if someone wants to remember me as the shortstop that was big and had a little success and maybe contributed to the change of the mindset of the middle infield, that's great. If they want to remember me as a gamer or someone that had a joy for the game, I think that the important thing is that people remember you at all.
Richie Bancells: People always bring up injuries, but the most amazing thing to me about the Streak -- and it has to be pure genetics -- is just the illness part. He never really got sick. There were times he maybe didn't feel great and he may have had a fever, but he never got the plague or anything.
John Eisenberg: First there was the innings streak. That in itself was remarkable. Very early on it was established that here was a guy with some amazing instincts in terms of longevity and amazing ability in terms of being strong and fit and able to battle his way through the rigors of a long season. He got thrown out of a game in the late '80s at Memorial Stadium for arguing balls and strikes. The umpire said, "It was like throwing God out of church." Once he got over a thousand and he kept going people were saying, "He's not coming out," because this was getting into historic proportions.
Cal Ripken Jr.: Once I got my feet on the ground with the managers who wrote the name on the lineup, no one ever discussed with me, "Do you want to play today, do you want to have an off-day, do you want to stay in the game?" So as the games played out almost without realizing it, you were playing every inning of every game. I think Joe Altobelli had some small comments with me in the middle of the '83 season. But I was so early in my career, I was learning all the time, I was having a great deal of success and we were winning. I think that was the first year that I played every inning of every game. Joe would say, "How about an inning off?" I really thought I would lose my feeling at the plate if I was hot and I really wanted to fix something if something wasn't quite right, and it wasn't a big deal. I didn't think missing an inning would give me this renewed rest and I would feel better the next day.
Thomas Boswell: The most interesting thing about the Streak to me was his complete indifference to physical injury. He wrestled and horsed around in the clubhouse more than any player on any team that I saw. When Albert Belle came to the team he was considered the big huge bully. Now Cal had gotten into wrestling matches with every other big guy that was ever on the team and they would throw each other around and flip over sofas. He just locked up with Albert Belle and he was so strong he just threw him around the room. He had natural strength. Not weightlifting strength. I think of it as farm strength where you don't just lift things in repetition that develop the muscle in one precise way but where the act of being a farmer or logger forces your body to move in every conceivable position. I think one of the reasons Ripken was such a wonderfully reactive player at shortstop and never got hurt was that he had natural, old-fashioned 19th century frontiersman strength that was not developed through weight-lifting that may overdevelop some muscles but not develop every muscle around it that compensates for the strength of that muscle. I think that's the difference between the player that concentrates on weight-lifting as opposed to Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, who you always saw chopping wood in the off-season.
Cal Ripken Jr.: Certain comments were made during the course of the Streak by different people who didn't understand the full context of me playing every day. When [Bonds] made that comment I remember thinking that everyone is entitled to their opinion. To me it was never about personal goals or selfishness. That was the easy way out for everyone to talk about. It was about the ultimate feeling that you had a responsibility to the team. I think selfish would be taking yourself out when your team needs you the most. I've seen over the years many times, when you're facing a tough pitcher and things weren't going well, you would dodge Roger Clemens or Randy Johnson or somebody else in that particular game, and I always looked at that as being selfish. You protected yourself and let the rest of the team battle against the hard challenge.
Jamie Moyer: There were always skeptics who, whenever he wasn't hitting, said he should take a day off. But you see guys who are not in streaks have the same results. That's just the game. I thought it was great.
Bud Selig: The one thing you want from your players is the ability to play every day. They've got to play through injury. They've got to play through pain. Because, after all, when all is said and done -- and a lot of division and pennant races are very close -- you need your best players in there. And I don't think there was anything selfish about it. I know people have been critical and I think it's not only unfair, I think it's just plain wrong. And, who would they rather have had playing shortstop? That's the question I would ask those people. I think it shows an unselfish attitude that you wish all of your players had.
Miguel Tejada: Oh my God. I can't believe it because for me, I've been through a lot of stuff: pain, losing streaks, injuries. I can't imagine how Cal Ripken did it. That's unbelievable.
Cal Ripken Jr.: For me, I didn't feel that I was imprisoned or I was obligated to continue. I always thought it was my job and the job of everyone else to come to the ballpark to play. I felt an obligation toward the end, people had made all these plans, there was an expectation and I felt there was a little pressure for me to actually get to the finish line. But I never thought there was a finish line.