Your article about Cal Ripken Jr. and his streak (Solitary Man, June 28) greatly disturbed me. The story underscores what is wrong with our country today: Nobody wants to work. Everyone says Ripken should take a day off. What are off days in the schedule for, then? Yes, his batting average may be down a little this year, but if he were a career .200 hitter, he wouldn't be in this situation. In looking at a shortstop, you think defense first. Ripken is one of the alltime greats at his position. The offense has been an added luxury.
Cal Ripken Jr. has been too good for the game for him to be wrapped up in this all-consuming consecutive-game streak mania. It's obviously taking a toll on him. He is a class act, and it's time for him to miss a game and get this gorilla off his back.
Tom Verducci's assertion that Cal Ripken's streak "already rivals, if not surpasses, Gehrig's streak in grandeur" is absurd. During the 14 full seasons of Gehrig's streak, his lowest batting average was .295, and his lifetime average was .340. As of July 22, Ripken was hitting .233, and at the end of last season his lifetime average was .277.
Nowadays a player who plays every day is noteworthy, but the grandeur of Gehrig's streak is not that he played 2,130 games in a row but that he performed at such a high level during those 2,130 games.
BRIAN J. WOLTMAN
In light of Ripken's reluctance to play an inning just to keep his streak alive, I recall that once during Lou Gehrig's 14 years of consecutive games, when he was suffering from lumbago in 1934, he batted leadoff for the only time in his career. He got a hit and then gave way to a pinch runner, keeping his streak intact.
Of course, Gehrig also went to Yankee manager Joe McCarthy and took himself out of the lineup early in the 1939 season, when his play was deteriorating and shortly before his fatal illness was diagnosed. The illness had begun to affect his play in '38, when he batted "only" .295 with 29 homers and 114 RBIs.
When Ripken endures some trouble at the plate, remember that he is a shortstop, a position he plays as well as anyone in baseball. On the day that I received your June 28 issue, I checked where the other American League teams batted their shortstops: 1, 3, 6, 6, 7, 8, 8, 8, 8, 9, 9, 9, 9. Juan Bell led off for the Brewers, and Travis Fryman was in the 3 spot for the Tigers. Ripken, hitting his usual third, got his eighth homer of the season to help the Orioles beat Detroit 6-2.
I think every Baltimore fan would agree that in the late summer months a rested, relaxed Cal Ripken is worth a lot more in a pennant chase than an isolated, paranoid Ripken who worries more about postgame security than about the pitcher he is facing on a given night. If Ripken thinks this record is going to get him into the Hall of Fame, he's living in a fantasy world, because when voters are faced with a choice between him and his contemporaries ( Wade Boggs, George Brett, Paul Molitor, Dave Winfield, Robin Yount), he'll be left out in the cold with his lifetime .277 average.
The Other Streak
About the time of pitcher Anthony Young's 20th straight defeat, I began to expect him to blast his Met teammates for their part in his losing streak (Sigh Young, July 5). But much to my surprise, he has not reacted to his predicament with hostility or false humor. As a Met fan, I find his attitude refreshing. You can have the athletes who give the impression of never having defeats. I'll take Young and his true grit as my role model.
TIMOTHY J. FROST
Thank you for a look into the world of Sparky Anderson (The New Perfesser, June 28). In these days, when baseball is slowly moving from its traditional foundation, it's nice to read about someone who adheres to an earlier, admirable code of conduct.
PAUL J. MARTIN
Johnson City, N.Y.