Judge Ryan Keefer is about to break the record for most consecutive days at the donut box at the DVD Verdict offices. Some of you more enterprising people know who held the old record.
The definition of iron man. The ultimate hero.
Let's get something out of the way first; I was born in Baltimore, Maryland. I think our crabs (hard and soft shell) are the best in all the land. I think Old Bay Seasoning should be its own food group. In fact, you can get some bags of potato chips with Old Bay sprinkled in there, called "crab chips" by the residents of the Delaware, Maryland and Virginia areas. When it comes to sports teams, admittedly the Colts stunk up the joint before they moved to Indianapolis in 1984, so a sports fan who didn't want to saddle up to the Washington Redskins had to root for baseball's Baltimore Orioles. And a young whippersnapper from down the road in a sleepy town named Havre de Grace, Maryland, had just begun his career with the Os.
In those days, Cal Ripken Jr. was better known as the son of Cal Sr., a minor league veteran who had been a longtime third base coach with the Orioles. Cal was drafted and played in the minor league system as a third baseman early in his playing career, when then-manager Earl Weaver played him one day at shortstop, a position normally reserved for players who were six inches shorter than Ripken and could jump high in the air. Cal realized that due to his taller, more flatfooted nature, he wouldn't be able to compete for long as a shortstop, arguably baseball's most challenging fielding position. Cal took in information that would later give him a reputation as a student of the game, and he realized that what athleticism he had he should use to his advantage. Hr played the position with placement more in mind, so that he could also use anticipation to his credit as well.
He also played every game, and even more impressive, every inning of those games. Every time it was near the end of the game, and his team was epically ahead (or behind) of their opponent, every extra inning affair, Cal played in every last one of those games, and did so for seven years, until his father (who by that point was managing the team) pulled him late in a game. It didn't stop him from playing every game though, until the record for consecutive games played was in reach, 2,130 by New York Yankees legend Lou Gehrig.
Many have defined Ripken's career as being "The Streak," but there should be other things which define Ripken that go beyond the convenient phrase of "coming to work every day for over a decade." After the 1994 baseball strike, Cal, who was near breaking Gehrig's record at the time, did something that few players have done as consistently (or ever) since. After many of those games, Cal signed autographs for the fans, sometimes staying hours after the game ended. Fans politely lined up in queues and waited for Cal to sign a ball, or hat, or even to shake his hand. Each handshake would be firm and met the fan's eyes, each signature would be blown on by Cal, so as to not let the drying ink smudge a fan's hand. Cal was and still is always about the details.
With his impending induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame, Major League Baseball has put together a collection of some of Cal's career milestones as part of a multi-disc set, the first such set to focus on a single player I believe. As is the case with similar sets, each of the five games is presented in its original broadcast. First, the game that celebrated Cal's breaking of Gehrig's record, including his lap around Oriole Park at Camden Yards, who helped to celebrate the achievement by suspending the game and delivering a standing ovation for over 20 minutes. Ripken also provided dramatic emphasis for the game, homering in the fourth inning in a 4-2 victory on Sept. 6, 1995. Flash forward several months to May 28, 1996, in a game where the Orioles beat the Seattle Mariners 12-8 behind three home runs and eight runs batted in, both of which were career bests in a game. Next is a game during the American League Division Series, where Ripken hit three doubles to help lead the Orioles to a 10-4 victory over the Cleveland Indians. The fourth game is one where the Orioles simply abused the Atlanta Braves, there's no other way to say it. What else can you call a game where you win 22-1, and Ripken hitting in all six appearances? The last game of the set is the 2001 All-Star Game, where Ripken played shortstop one last time at the behest of manager Joe Torre. And, yes, another moment of dramatic Ripken embellishment followed, as he hit a home run in the game to help the American League win 4-1.
As a fan, I think there are a couple of games missing from the set. First is the game where Cal tied the record. Not only did he hit a homer in that game, but he was showered with gifts afterward. Among the gifts was a present by pitcher Jim Gott. Gott pitched for the Toronto Blue Jays in Cal's first game of the streak, a game that earned Gott his first major league win, a milestone for any pitcher. Gott came to the ballpark, and gave his precious keepsake (a ball from the game) to Cal, who was clearly blown away by the offer and initially refused it, only to be persuaded by Gott, who has earned free dinners for the rest of his life in Charm City with the gesture. The other non-inclusion is Cal's last game. It's only proper, and it was a nice ceremony, so it probably should have gone in. However on the last disc, which houses a documentary (narrated by Ed Norton, The Illusionist), there's a lot of coverage of the farewell festivities.
Bottom line, for fans of the Orioles or Ripken, this is a must have for the library. It might not be the most complete or perfect set in the world, but there are other inclusions that fans might not have thought of, and it's worth shelling out the extra bucks. So go get a brat and a Natty Bo and enjoy this set.
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