- TOP PLAYERSOffensePABLO S. TORRE | August 20, 2012
- TAMPA BAY buccaneersENEMY lines WHAT A RIVAL COACH SAYSJune 28, 2012
- Faces in the CrowdJune 11, 2001
"EARLY ON, I was a diver. I stood straight up and dove toward the outside corner and looked for the breaking ball. I wasn't afraid to stick my nose in there.
But I changed based on adjustments for the pitcher. When I was struggling, I had to tinker in batting practice until it felt right." -- CAL RIPKEN JR.
"I WAS exactly the opposite. �I stood in the same spot in the batter's box--right in the middle, no matter who was pitching--since Little League.
Early on in my career I started with a closed stance, and I had all kinds of trouble handling the ball in. That's when we started using videotape." -- TONY GWYNN
CAL RIPKEN JR. AND TONY GWYNN COMBINED TO PLAY 5,441 regular-season major league games but never against each other. Their lives and baseball careers ran parallel tracks all the way to Cooperstown. Born three months apart in 1960, they each played their entire careers with one team--their hometown team--before those careers ended one day apart in 2001. They will be honored on the same day this summer, July 29, with induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Ripken and Gwynn are teammates for posterity now, Cooperstown classmates and baseball soul mates who have come to share a closeness impossible during their playing days--except the occasional All-Star tour of Japan ("Forty-five minutes on the bus just to go around the block in Tokyo, you get to know somebody," Ripken said) or All-Star Game.
The class of 2007 is also the class of their generation. Ripken--who actively runs Cal Ripken Baseball, a division of Babe Ruth Baseball, among his many business interests--and Gwynn, the baseball coach at San Diego State, have continued to give back to the sport they cherish and respect.
Ripken (3,184 hits) and Gwynn (3,141), however, ended their careers 14th and 18th, respectively, on the alltime hits list with styles and philosophies on hitting that often diverged. To explore those perspectives, and as a way to celebrate their induction into the Hall, Sports Illustrated arranged for Ripken and Gwynn to face each other--not on a field but in a San Diego hotel conference room in April.
With SI senior writer Tom Verducci as moderator, Ripken and Gwynn talked hitting for more than an hour. They explored their similarities and differences, how hitting has evolved, how steroids became an influence, Barry Bonds, the next .400 hitter and how they would like to be remembered. Listen up as Ripken and Gwynn take their cuts.
SI: You guys were very different in how you set up to hit. Cal, you were the man of a thousand stances. How did that come about?