BALTIMORE (AP) — Instead of taking another lap around Camden Yards, Cal Ripken Jr. marked the 20th anniversary of his 2,131st consecutive game by throwing out the ceremonial first pitch before the Orioles hosted Tampa Bay on Tuesday night.
Ripken disclosed before the game that he hurt his right shoulder earlier in the day when he was tossed over the handlebars of his bicycle. But, true to form, he walked onto the field and threw a strike to former teammate Brady Anderson.
The Orioles added a bit of nostalgia to the night by posting the numbers 2131 on the warehouse beyond the right-field wall, just as they did when he broke the record on Sept. 6, 1995.
Now 55, Ripken made baseball history when he eclipsed Lou Gehrig’s major league record of playing in 2,130 straight games. When the game became official, Ripken was pushed out of the Baltimore dugout by his teammates and embarked on an impromptu journey around the field, exchanging high-fives and handshakes with many of the fans in the sellout crowd.
It became the signature moment of the two-day event in which Ripken became baseball’s Iron Man.
“It really made the celebration much more one-on-one, more personal,” Ripken recalled. “My first reaction was, ‘I’ll try this if we can get the game started.’ Then once you started having the interactions with everybody, clearly it didn’t matter to me whether the game started or not. I was just enjoying that moment.”
Ripken extended the record to 2,632 games before willingly sitting out the final home game of the 1998 season.
“Putting it to bed was a decision I made earlier in the year and I’m glad I could do it my own terms,” he said.
The longest current run is held by Baltimore third baseman Manny Machado, who played in his 132nd straight game on Tuesday night.
If Machado played the next 15 seasons without missing a game, he would still be short of matching Ripken’s streak.
“Trust me, nobody’s going to touch it. And it won’t be Manny,” Orioles manager Buck Showalter said.
Given the physical toll today’s game takes on athletes and the steps a manager takes to keep his players fresh, it appears as if Showalter’s assessment is sound
But Ripken said: “People say it’s an unbreakable record, but I did it. So, because I did it, somebody else can do it.”
The ceremony marking the 20th anniversary was held four days before the exact date because the Orioles will be on the road Sunday.