A Brief History
On September 6, 1995, Cal Ripken, Jr., infielder for the Baltimore Orioles, set a new major league baseball record by playing in his 2131st consecutive baseball game, breaking the record held by Lou Gehrig for 56 years.
Ripken played another 6 years, stretching his incredible record to 2632 games, finally retiring in 2001 after a stellar 20 year career. He had hit safely 3184 times and knocked in 1695 runs, earned 2 Gold Gloves and 2 MVP trophys. Named to the All Century Team, Ripken was a 19 time All Star, and was elected to the Hall of Fame in 2007, his very first year of eligibility. An 8 time Silver Slugger Award winner, Ripken hit 431 career home runs, tremendous production for a shortstop (primarily) in his day. Ripken even won 2 All Star Game MVP awards and a Home Run Derby crown. He holds several fielding records as well, highly unusual for a 6’4” 225 lb shortstop.
Ripken came from a baseball family, with his father Cal Ripken, Sr. a 36 year veteran of the Orioles organization as a player, scout, coach and manager. Ripken also played on the same team with his younger brother, Billy, who had an 11 year major league career.
Ripken’s “Iron Man” record of consecutive games played is one of the most amazing in baseball history, the equivalent of playing over 16 seasons straight without missing a game for any reason. Considering the family crises that develop during that time span, illnesses and the inevitable injuries, Ripken had to play through events, aches and pains that any ordinary person would miss a game or games for. Until Alex Rodriguez played the infield with unprecedented steroid fueled power, Ripken was probably the best slugger ever to play shortstop. He also has the record for consecutive innings played, at 8243, and for playing 95 games in a row (by a shortstop) without an error. On the other hand, in 1999 Ripken passed Hank Aaron (not a bad hitter himself) as having hit into the most double plays in history.
Ripken has stayed busy since leaving baseball, involved in many charitable and business ventures. He has done his share of television commentary, and remains a popular figure. One of the greatest baseball players of all time, Cal Ripken, Jr. certainly deserves consideration as the best overall shortstop in baseball history. His records and achievements go well beyond those mentioned here. Question for students (and subscribers): Who would you consider the greatest shortstop? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
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For more information, please see…
Gutman, Dan, Cal Ripken, et al. Cal Ripken, Jr.: My Story. Dial, 1999.
Nicholson, Lois. Cal Ripken, Jr.: Quiet Hero. Tidewater Pub, 1995.