How a photo shoot almost ended Ripken's streak

The Iron Man was no match for an errant elbow

May 1st, 2020
Tom Forget

Entering the 1996 All-Star Game in Philadelphia, Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken Jr. had played in 2,239 consecutive Major League games -- over 100 more than Lou Gehrig's record, which he'd broken the year prior.

Ripken's streak would last two and a half more seasons, eventually reaching an unbelievable 2,632 games. But it almost ended prematurely on account of a photo shoot gone horribly wrong.

The American League roster was posing for a team photo in center field at Veterans Stadium when, all of a sudden, White Sox reliever Roberto Hernandez slipped on the platform, sending his left elbow flying into Ripken's nose. Baseball's Iron Man went crumbing to the ground:

At first, Hernandez thought the injury might be pretty bad and offered to help. "It was bleeding pretty bad," said Hernandez. "I offered him my shirt to help stop the bleeding."

But he's only human, so his thoughts quickly turned to what this injury could potentially mean for him and his career. “I thought I’d have to get a damn bodyguard the next time we go to Baltimore,” he said. “I knew that if it ended the streak, I’d be dead.”

Fortunately for both Hernandez and Ripken, the broken nose did not end the streak. In fact, thanks to Phillies team physician Dr. Phillip Marone, Ripken was able to start the All-Star Game as planned.

“He kind of pinched it, popped it and put it back in place,” said Ripken. The gauze Marone put in the Oriole's nose could be seen during the game, the only visible evidence that Ripken even broke his nose at all.

"I don't think it was ever that straight, but it's straighter than it was a half-hour ago," Ripken joked at the time. “But I reserve the right to use it as a crutch when I make an error or swing and miss.” And he might have had to employ it as an excuse for his 0-for-3 performance in the game.

As for Hernandez -- who was understandably worried in the moment for his American League teammate's well-being -- he didn't seem rattled by the incident when the time came for him to take the mound in the eighth inning. The righty retired three of the four batters he faced, conceding only a two-out triple to Rockies outfielder Ellis Burks.

Despite his hitless performance, the '96 All-Star Game was ultimately a success for Ripken. Not only did he manage to take the field with a broken nose, but he was also ready to go and continue his streak when the Orioles hosted the Yankees later that week.

"I don't want to go down in All-Star history as the only guy ever injured during a team picture," Ripken said at the time. Mission accomplished.