Ryan Minor, who replaced Ripken to end the streak, passes away at 49

December 23rd, 2023

Ryan Minor, who replaced Cal Ripken Jr. in the Orioles’ lineup to end the Iron Man’s streak and later became a revered Minor League manager, died on Friday after a battle with Stage 4 colon cancer, his twin brother, Damon, announced on social media. He was 49 years old.

Minor played four seasons in the big leagues, including his first three in Baltimore. He went on to manage in the O’s Minor League system, spending time as the skipper for the Delmarva Shorebirds (2010-12, 2014-17) and the Frederick Keys (2013, 2018-19).

On Sept. 20, 1998, Ripken voluntarily ended his consecutive games played streak -- a mark unlikely to be broken -- at 2,632. Instead of his name listed next to third base on Baltimore’s lineup card for that night’s game vs. the Yankees, it was Minor penciled in at that spot.

"I was extremely nervous. I can't say I wasn't," Minor told The Oklahoman at the time.

"I looked at [Ripken] and said, 'Thanks for the opportunity,'" Minor added. "He looked at me and said, 'Go get 'em.'"

Ryan Dale Minor was born Jan. 5, 1974, in Canton, Ohio. After attending Hammon (Okla.) High School, he went on to become a two-sport star at the University of Oklahoma, where he thrived at both baseball and basketball. From 1993-95, Minor was teammates on the Sooners’ baseball team with Damon, who later played four seasons for the Giants from 2000-04.

Minor excelled at both of his sports, and he had opportunities to play both professionally.

After helping lead Oklahoma’s baseball team to a College World Series championship in 1994, Minor was selected by the Mets in the seventh round of the MLB Draft in ’95. He opted not to sign, instead returning to college for his senior year.

Minor, who was the Big Eight Conference Co-Player of the Year for men’s basketball in the 1994-95 season, ended up getting taken by the Philadelphia 76ers in the second round of the NBA Draft in ’96. That same year, he was selected by the Orioles in the 33rd round of the MLB Draft.

At first, Minor pursued professional basketball, playing in seven preseason games for the 76ers before getting released. He then had a 32-game stint with the Oklahoma City Cavalry of the Continental Basketball Association.

During that time, Minor also began his pro baseball career, playing 25 games for the Rookie-level Bluefield Orioles in 1996. When the O’s invited him to Major League Spring Training in ’97, Minor hung up his basketball shoes and focused on hardball.

Minor played for Single-A Delmarva in 1997, then got promoted to Double-A Bowie in ’98. He got his first taste of the Majors in September 1998, when he had a nine-game stint with the Orioles. The only complete game that Minor played that year for Baltimore marked a noteworthy event in baseball history.

Minor played 87 games for the Orioles from 1998-2000, then appeared in 55 contests for the Expos in ’01. Although he couldn’t stick in the big leagues after that, he later positively impacted baseball players of future generations.

On Sept. 20, 1998, Minor replaced Ripken in the lineup to end his consecutive games played streak at 2,632.

In 2006, Minor started his coaching career, first with the independent Atlantic League’s Road Warriors. The following year, he served as the hitting/infield coach for the York Revolution in the same league.

Minor returned to the Orioles’ organization in 2008, when he was hired to be Single-A Delmarva’s hitting coach. He was later promoted to Shorebirds manager, a role he then served in from 2010-12.

After that three-year stint, Minor moved up to serve as manager for Frederick, Baltimore’s High-A affiliate at the time, in 2013. He returned to Delmarva to be the skipper from 2014-17, then came back to the Keys as manager from 2018-19.

Minor later spent two years in the Tigers’ organization. He was set to manage the club’s Gulf Coast League team in 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the Minor League season. Minor then served as Detroit’s Florida Complex League skipper in ’21.

While Minor’s most noteworthy MLB moment was tied to the legend he filled in for on one late September night in 1998, he never shied away from discussing being the man who replaced Ripken to end the streak.

“I guess it’s better to talk about it than to be forgotten,” Minor told former Yahoo Sports columnist Tim Brown in September 2018. “I like to talk baseball.”

That’s why Minor stayed around the sport for as long as he could and left a positive impact on the Orioles’ organization.