Says Marlin scout Whitey Lockman, "Who else is better? He does everything well. Defense. Offense. He does more with his knowledge than with his ability."
La Russa adds, "In all the years that I've been in this league, I have never seen him make a mistake in judgment. Never."
Though he does not have a textbook swing—he clubs the ball, as if swinging a heavy mallet at a gong—Ripken in seasons past has hit for a high average (.323 in 1991), hit for power (34 home runs in '91 and 47 doubles in '83) and exhibited discipline at the plate (102 walks in '88). He has been virtually flawless afield, committing only 58 errors over the past six seasons, including a major-league-record low for shortstops: three, in 1990. Oh, yes. He has played 2,009 consecutive games, too, making him an iron man with a gold glove, a silver bat and lead feet. Nevertheless, despite his lack of speed, he is a skilled base runner.
"There's nothing mysterious about winning," he says. "It's a matter of executing the fundamentals."
After all these years, he still knows only one way to play.