8 amazing facts about Ripken's streak

The numbers behind the Iron Man's famous record

September 6th, 2020

Two thousand, one hundred and thirty-one consecutive games. It’s an almost unfathomable number, and on Sept. 6, 1995, reached it.

That magical night at Baltimore’s Camden Yards, the Orioles star surpassed the legendary Lou Gehrig as baseball’s Iron Man. But he wouldn’t stop there. Ripken eventually played 2,632 straight games from May 30, 1982, through Sept. 19, 1998, before finally taking a seat on the bench.

Twenty-five years after Ripken set his record, it appears as unbreakable as ever. In honor of the man who took the field in his No. 8 jersey in every game for more than 16 seasons, here are eight amazing facts about Ripken’s streak.

1) It’s not just that Ripken’s 2,632-game streak is the record. It’s that, with the notable exception of Lou Gehrig (2,130), nobody else in baseball history has been remotely close to him. The third- and fourth-longest streaks belong to Everett Scott (1916-25) and Steve Garvey (1975-83). If you combine those two runs, they add up to 2,514 games -- or 118 below Ripken. Miguel Tejada (2000-07) has produced by far the longest streak since Ripken’s ended, but even if Tejada had doubled his total, he would have been 328 games short. That’s more than two full seasons (324).

2) At one point early in the streak, Ripken played 8,243 consecutive innings, shattering the previous record of 5,152, which was held by 19th-century infielder George Pinkney. Ripken started the streak within a streak on June 5, 1982, and played every inning until he was removed for a defensive replacement on Sept. 14, 1987. With the Orioles trailing the Blue Jays, 17-3, manager Cal Ripken Sr. took the opportunity to finally get his son some rest, replacing him at shortstop with future Rangers skipper Ron Washington in the bottom of the eighth inning.

3) How long is 2,632 games? That total alone is more than all but 27 Hall of Fame position players logged in their entire careers. It’s more games than Babe Ruth played (excluding his time as a pitcher). The same goes for other all-time greats such as Rogers Hornsby, Mickey Mantle and Mike Schimdt.

One Hall of Famer played his entire career within the confines of the streak. That would be Kirby Puckett, who debuted in 1984 and retired prematurely after the ‘95 season due to retinal damage in his right eye. The list of other notable players whose entire careers fit into the streak includes Lenny Dykstra, Cecil Fielder and Don Mattingly.

4) Ripken played alongside 150 Orioles position player teammates in the field during the streak, with Brady Anderson (1,283) playing the most games of anyone other than Ripken at a fielding position (excluding designated hitter).

He played just one game in the field alongside Ryan Minor, who would go on to be the answer to the trivia question of who replaced Ripken in the game as the streak ended. Minor started at first base on Sept. 18, 1998, the game before Ripken’s 2,632nd game. On Sept. 20, he started at third, and the rest was history -- as was Ripken’s streak.

Speaking of the Orioles franchise, Ripken played under eight managers during the streak, beginning with Earl Weaver in 1982 (who also managed the Orioles in ‘86) and ending with Ray Miller in ‘98. Along the way, he was also managed by Joe Altobelli (1983-85), his father Cal Ripken Sr. (1985, 1987-88), Frank Robinson (1988-91), Johnny Oates (1991-94), Phil Regan (1995), Davey Johnson (1996-97) and Ray Miller (1998).

5) Ripken played both shortstop and third base over the course of the streak. In that span, 781 other players played at least one game at either shortstop or third base. Ripken had the most at shortstop, with 2,289, while Gary Gaetti had the most at third, with 2,147. Ozzie Smith was second in games played at shortstop, with 1,884.

6) Ripken’s streak nearly came to an end before he set the all-time record, as the shortstop considered sitting out after waking up with knee stiffness on June 7, 1993. The previous day, Ripken twisted his knee during a benches-clearing brawl with the Mariners after Mike Mussina plunked Seattle’s Bill Haselman with a pitch.

At the time, Ripken had played 1,790 consecutive games, 340 shy of Gehrig's record. He ended up taking the field that night and went 1-for-2 with two walks against the A’s.

7) Ripken’s 2,632 games played from May 30, 1982, through Sept. 19, 1998, were of course the most in the Majors in that span. The next-most games played by anyone in that span was 2,335 by Wade Boggs. That 297-game difference between No. 1 and No. 2 on the list is larger than the 281-game difference between No. 2 and No. 15 (Willie McGee -- 2,054). In all, 2,998 players had at least one plate appearance in that span.

Ripken was one of nine Hall of Famers to play at least 2,000 games in that span, along with Boggs, Harold Baines, Eddie Murray, Tony Gwynn, Rickey Henderson, Paul Molitor, Tim Raines and Ryne Sandberg. Four Hall of Famers played on both May 30, 1982 and Sept. 19, 1998: Ripken, Henderson, Molitor and Raines.

Speaking of Hall of Famers, Roy Halladay made his Major League debut on Sept. 20, 1998 -- the day Ripken took himself out of the lineup, ending the streak.

8) Over the course of the streak, Ripken faced 19 different teams. The Orioles’ most frequent opponent in that span was the Yankees (215 games). With the introduction of Interleague Play in 1997, he faced five National League teams in the final two years of the streak -- the Mets, Expos, Phillies, Marlins and Braves. He faced each American League team at least 184 times with the exception of the Rays, whom he faced 14 times after they were established in 1998.

Ripken faced 526 starting pitchers in that span, with Mike Moore (35 starts) being the most frequent opponent. He faced four starters at least 30 times: Moore, Jack Morris (33), Mark Langston (32) and Roger Clemens (31).

Ripken played in 25 ballparks during the streak, with 788 games at Memorial Stadium until Oriole Park at Camden Yards opened in 1992. In addition to Memorial Stadium, he played 100 or more games at Oriole Park (532), Yankee Stadium (109), Tiger Stadium (106), County Stadium (103), Oakland Coliseum (101) and the Metrodome (101). His fewest games at any stadium he did play in during the streak was two, at Shea Stadium.