Ten years ago today, a reluctant Cal Ripken Jr, of the Baltimore Orioles, was pushed out of the dugout by team-mates and began to jog around his home ground, a short journey that took him into the record books with one of sport™s most astonishing milestones.
On the night, baseball, and much of the United States, came to a standstill. A blizzard of flashbulbs followed his progress as he high-fived and shook every proffered hand. The deafening ovation lasted 22 minutes. As with Woodstock or Wembley in 1966, many more people have claimed that they were crammed into Camden Yards than the 46,012 recorded.
Ripken™s achievement was, and remains, monumental. He was playing his 2,131st consecutive Major League game, taking him past the record of Lou Gehrig, the legendary New York Yankee. A moment of reflection: the baseball season is a marathon; Major League teams play six days a week for six months, 162 games in all.
It is a calendar of relentless grind. Games finish late ” close to midnight, if they remain tied much past the ninth inning. The team plane to the next game arrives in the early hours. Pulled muscles or twisted ankles rarely have time to heal. The next pitch is always just hours away.
Managers will give pretty much everyone a break at some stage. But Ripken never took a day off. Not for 14 years, until he passed Gehrig™s mark, and not for a further three after that. He raised the bar to 2,632, playing 17 seasons before deciding to rest for a game.
That Watson finds Ripken, and by extension, baseball, respectable enough to warrant a favorable mention in the Times stands in stark contrast to Steven Wells’ recent commentary in the Guardian. That said, however impressive Ripken’s achievment, perhaps the odd day off here or there might’ve done the O’s more good? Assuming the team’s performance was more important than the pursuit of an individual record, that is.