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Ripken, Cal(vin) Edward, Jr.

RIPKEN, Cal(vin) Edward, Jr.

(b. 24 August 1960 in Havre de Grace, Maryland), baseball player, primarily at shortstop, who set a new record in 1998 for the most consecutive games played.

Ripken was the second of four children of Calvin Edward Ripken, Sr., a professional baseball player, coach, scout, and manager, and Violet Gross, a homemaker. The Ripkens made their family home in Aberdeen, Maryland, where Ripken pitched and played shortstop for the Aberdeen High School baseball team from 1974 to 1978. In his senior year Ripken helped lead the team to the Maryland Class A state baseball championship.

After graduation Ripken was drafted as the fifth pick in the second round of the June 1978 draft by the Baltimore Orioles. After three years in the minor leagues, Ripken was called up to the Orioles major league roster on 7 August 1981. The following season Ripken won the American League (AL) Rookie of the Year award, finishing the season with twenty-eight home runs and ninety-three runs batted in (RBI); he had not missed a game since the second game of a doubleheader on 30 May 1982. Ripken followed his rookie season with a stellar year in 1983 in which he batted .318 with 27 home runs and 102 RBI. He was voted the AL Most Valuable Player (MVP), becoming the fourth Oriole to win the award. Ripken also became the first player in major league history to win a Rookie of the Year award in his first season and an MVP award in his second. Ripken's award was heightened by Baltimore's performance, as the team won the World Series for the first time since 1970.

Ripken played every inning of every game in the 1983 season, as well as in the 1984 and 1985 seasons, becoming the first player since 1905 to play every inning of every game for three consecutive years. Ripken's streaks of consecutive games and consecutive innings played continued through the 1986 season. Shortly after the conclusion of that season, on 6 October 1986, Ripken's father was named as the manager of the Baltimore Orioles. It marked the third time in major league history that a player was managed by his father. When Ripken's younger brother Billy was called up to the Orioles on 11 July 1987, the Ripkens became the first pair of brothers to be managed by their father on the same team.

On 14 September 1987 Ripken's consecutive innings-played streak ended at a record 8,243, although his consecutive games-played streak continued. On 13 November 1987 Ripken married Kelly Geer; they later had two children. The following season Ripken's father was fired as the manager after the Orioles lost their first six games of the season. On 25 June 1988 Ripken became the sixth man in major league history to play in 1,000 consecutive games.

On 28 July 1990 Ripken made an error for the first time in ninety-five games, establishing a new record for shortstops. The next season Ripken earned his first of two Gold Glove awards as the AL's best defensive shortstop. He was also named the AL MVP that season. After Maury Wills of the 1962 Los Angeles Dodgers, he was the second man in baseball history to win the MVP award, the All-Star game's MVP award, a Gold Glove award, and the Player of the Year awards of both Sports Illustrated and the Associated Press in the same season.

After playing every game during the 1992 and 1993 seasons, on 1 August 1994 Ripken played in his 2,000th consecutive game, making him only the second man to reach that milestone in baseball history, behind Lou Gehrig, who played in 2,130 consecutive games for the New York Yankees between 1925 and 1939. On 5 September 1995 Ripken tied Gehrig's record, and the following day he surpassed it. Ripken added more drama to the record-tying and record-breaking games by homering in each. Because of the timing of Ripken's record-breaking game, he was credited with helping to make baseball exciting again for many fans who had become disillusioned following the players' strike the previous season, which had caused the cancellation of the 1994 World Series.

Ripken's streak of consecutive games played lasted three more years until he finally sat out a game on 20 September 1998, establishing a mark of 2,632 games. Shortly after the 1999 season began, Ripken went onto the disabled list for the first time in his major league career. Ripken returned to hit his 400th career home run on 2 September of that year. He hit 345 of his home runs at shortstop, which set a record for the most home runs while playing that position. On 15 April 2000 Ripken became the twenty-fourth player in major league history to record 3,000 hits. In 2001 he was elected to his nineteenth consecutive All-Star game, tying a record for the most All-Star game berths, set by Ozzie Smith a few years earlier. Although some criticized Ripken's selection because of his subpar season, he homered in the All-Star game and was named the Most Valuable Player. Ripken retired at the end of the 2001 season. He had played in 3,001 games, and from a career total of 11,551 at bats, had accumulated 3,184 hits, 603 doubles, 1,647 runs, 1,695 RBI, and 431 home runs.

Ripken was credited with redefining the role of the shortstop in a major-league lineup. While a few exceptions provided powerful offensive statistics before Ripken, shortstops tended to be defensively skilled but unimpressive at the plate. After Ripken established himself as an offensive threat, shortstops increasingly added offensive production to their defensive ability. Ripken was more recognized, however, for his record of consecutive games played, as many believed Gehrig's record would never be broken. At various points when his statistics were below his normal average, Ripken received criticism for not taking a day off during what became known as "The Streak." Ripken maintained that he would rest if the situation called for it, and suggested that "The Streak" was more a byproduct of his desire to play than a reason for playing. That desire to play made Ripken the most durable "Iron Man" in baseball.

For a discussion of Ripken's personal life and career, see his autobiography with Mike Bryan, The Only Way I Know (1997). See also the biography by Harvey Rosenfeld, Iron Man: The Cal Ripken, Jr., Story (1995), which provides information about Ripken's personal life, but focuses more on his career. Also insightful are Ralph Wiley, "A Monumental Streak," Sports Illustrated (18 June 1990), and Steve Wulf, "Iron Bird," Time (11 Sept. 1995).

Raymond I. Schuckm

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