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Ripken began 'Iron Man' streak 30 years ago

Ripken began 'Iron Man' streak 30 years ago
Excuse Cal Ripken for not thinking too highly of an 0-for-2 day with a walk and a strikeout.

That's the performance he submitted as an Orioles rookie infielder 30 years ago today. Little did Ripken know that, beginning with a 6-0 loss to the Blue Jays on May 30, 1982, baseball's eventual "Iron Man" would go on to set the Major League record with 2,632 consecutive games played.

"He just went about it for what it was and was showing up and going to work," said former outfielder Jeffrey Hammonds, who played with Ripken from 1993-98. "It was awesome, all the way up to the culmination of everything."

On Sept. 6, 1995, Ripken broke Hall of Fame first baseman Lou Gehrig's record of 2,130 games played in a row. In that contest, which the Orioles won, 4-2, Ripken launched a home run to left field. Once Baltimore's tilt with the Angels became official in the fifth inning, Ripken -- urged on by his teammates -- took a lap around Oriole Park at Camden Yards, shaking hands with fans.

"I never really thought about the streak," Ripken said. "I never allowed myself to think about the streak. It was very simple: I wanted to come to the ballpark and I wanted to play and I wanted to help the team win."

In the ho-hum loss to Toronto 30 years ago, Ripken started at third base. But the 19-time All-Star spent the majority of his Hall of Fame career at shortstop, widely considered the most demanding position on the diamond, outside of catcher.

"There are so many little things that can happen," said former big league manager and shortstop Larry Bowa. "Guys break up a double play, they hit your knee, you get spiked. You get hit by a pitch on your throwing hand, and you can't throw."

Ripken went on to capture American League Rookie of the Year honors in 1982 and the AL MVP Award the following season as the Orioles won the World Series. He later added a pair of Gold Glove Awards and slugged 431 homers during his 21-year career. Yet Ripken will forever be connected with the remarkable streak.

"It represents who I am as a baseball player," Ripken said, "who I am as a teammate."

Ripken opted to end his streak on Sept. 20, 1998. Just as he probably wasn't crazy about his performance in Game No. 1, Ripken remains modest about all 2,632.

"The record wasn't a motivating force," Ripken said. "If you really sit down and examine it, and only I can do that inside -- somebody else can't relate to it who has not done it -- it's not that extraordinary. I'm not a superhuman, I'm not 'The Iron Man' as people say I am. I work hard, I try to keep myself in shape.

"I have a great desire and a great passion to do what you do, and there's a lot of factors that figure in to playing every day for 17 years. But I'm here to tell you that if I can do it, somebody else can."

Even as Ripken remains humble, color his peers impressed.

"He's in a class of his own," said Sandy Alomar Jr., who joined Ripken on the AL All-Star team on six occasions. "That's probably the most unbreakable record in baseball."

Lonnie Chisenhall, Cleveland's 23-year-old third baseman, idolized Ripken as a kid. He and second baseman Jason Kipnis had a bet last season granting the No. 8 jersey -- which Ripken donned in Baltimore for more than two decades -- to whomever was first called up by the Indians. Chisenhall beat Kipnis to the big leagues by a month.

"Ripken was my guy," Chisenhall said. "He was out there for his team every day. He always had a different batting stance, so I tried to mimic him and do a few of the things he did."

Chisenhall opened the 2012 campaign with Triple-A Columbus, but was recalled to Cleveland on Monday. After back-to-back starts, he wasn't in the lineup Wednedsay.

"I'm not going to break the record today," he said. "That is the most impressive record I've ever seen. I can't even imagine doing that."

Zack Meisel is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter @zackmeisel.

Baltimore Orioles, Cal Ripken