Major League Player
By Blair Lovern
As he looked back on his 20-year career, Cal Ripken said he never thought hed finish as one of the best in the game.
"One question Ive repeatedly been asked these last few weeks is how do I want to be remembered," Ripken said after his 3,001st and final game with the Orioles. "My answer has been simple: To be remembered at all is pretty special."
Other shortstops in history have hit as well or better, such as Honus Wagner or Ernie Banks. And with the glove Ripken could never match, say, Ozzie Smith. In fact, Ripken, at 6-foot-4 and 225 pounds, wasnt thought of as a shortstop at all, coming up in the minors as a third baseman.
But he combined defense and offense like no one else before him. In the end, only a handful of the more than 15,000 players to have ever played the game can say they put up similar numbers.
Without getting too bogged down, three players in history have more at-bats (11,551), 10 have more doubles (603), 12 have more hits (3,184), 17 drove in more runs (1,695) and 27 scored more runs (1,647). Ripken owns six major league career records and three season records, he was a 19-time all-star and he was one of seven players to have 400 home runs and 3,000 hits.
One of those career records is, of course, The Streak. On Sept. 6, 1995, Ripken officially took the nickname associated with Iron Man Lou Gehrig when he played in his 2,131st straight game. Another career record is most consecutive innings played (8,243) from 1982-87.
It was The Streak, said commissioner Bud Selig, that put Ripken on a different level.
"In 1995, that night when he broke the record was so great, especially given the nightmare of 1994," Selig said. "What hes done, hes done a great thing for baseball."
The last few years of his career began to take a toll, longtime teammate Brady Anderson said before Ripkens last game.
"A lot of athletes, when they leave, you feel bad for them," Anderson said. "They seem so sad, distraught or devastated. It seems the opposite for Cal. I honestly think its going to be a relief from the grind and the attention he has received. In that way, it wont be sad."
Ripken will spend his immediate future working with the new minor league and youth baseball complex in his hometown of Aberdeen, Md., which is scheduled to open in the spring of 2002.
His last manager, Mike Hargrove, said it was difficult to think of a comparable player and summed up his career about as well as anyone. "Ive been around a lot of great players, but never one who commands the respect that Cal does," he said. "I dont just mean adulation. I mean admiration."
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