Friday, September 20, 2013

September 20, 1998: The Iron Man Streak Comes To An End

On September 20, 1998, Cal Ripken Jr. walked into his manager's office and said "I think the time is right." What he meant by that was he was going to sit out the game that night which would be the first time since May 30, 1982 that Ripken was not in the Orioles lineup and it would end his legendary consecutive games played streak at 2,632. Ripken had became the all time Iron Man just two seasons earlier when he played in his 2,131st consecutive game surpassing the great Lou Gehrig. The choice to finally remove himself from the lineup on that day in late September was a surprise as he was just a week away from playing in every game for 16 straight seasons. With his team eliminated from playoff contention he felt like the time had come and he was doing what was best for the team. He felt as if the focus on the streak took away from the focus on the team so the 38 year-old future Hall of Famer put it to bed. When his manager Ray Miller filled out the lineup card rookie Ryan Minor was at the shortstop position and the Iron Man streak was over. The Orioles were taking on the New York Yankees that night at Camden Yards and the club from New York stood on the top stair of their dugout and gave the Iron Man a standing ovation. Ripken tipped his cap to the Yankees then went and took his seat next to his teammates on the bench. As the game progressed Ripken looked comfortable as he laughed and joked with teammates on the bench. He then went out to the O's bullpen and watched the rest of the game, occasionally shaking hands and posing for pictures with the fans. In the sixth he emerged from the bullpen to help warm up the left fielder while the fans gave him a standing ovations. It was truly the end of one of the greatest accomplishment in the history of baseball. While the streak ended Ripken's career was not over, his playing days didn't come to an end until the '01 season when he hung up his cleats after spending all of his 21 years in an Orioles uniform.

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