Living in Washington, D.C. during the Cal Ripken, Jr. era there was nothing better than seeing how young fans truly adored him. There was nothing like it in baseball at that time or likely even now.
On a September night in 1995, all of us adored Ripken as he broke the unbreakable record – Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games. I bet Gehrig himself would have been pleased by the character of the man who broke his incredible record.
Both President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore were at the game; Clinton was with the commentators on ESPN for the Orioles’ half of the fourth inning and called Ripken’s fourth inning home run. When the game became official after the Angels’ half of the fifth inning, the numerical banners that displayed Ripken’s streak on the wall of the B&O Warehouse outside the stadium’s right field wall changed from 2130 to 2131.
The crowd in the stands, the opposing players and all four umpires gave Ripken a standing ovation lasting more than 22 minutes, one of the longest standing ovations for any athlete; ESPN did not go to a commercial break during the entire ovation. During the ovation, Ripken did a lap around the entire Camden Yards warning track to shake hands and give high-fives to the fans.
“Tonight I stand here, overwhelmed, as my name is linked with the great and courageous Lou Gehrig. I’m truly humbled to have our names spoken in the same breath. This year has been unbelievable. I’ve been cheered in ballparks all over the country. People not only showed me their kindness, but more importantly, they demonstrated their love of the game of baseball. I give my thanks to baseball fans everywhere. Tonight, I want to make sure you know how I feel. As I grew up here, I not only had dreams of being a big league ballplayer, but also of being a Baltimore Oriole. For all of your support over the years, I want to thank you, the fans of Baltimore, from the bottom of my heart. This is the greatest place to play.”
“Bobby Bonilla and Rafael Palmeiro pushed me out of the dugout and said, ‘Hey, if you don’t do a lap around this thing, we’ll never get the game started.’ I thought it was a ridiculous sort of thing … but as I started to do it, the celebration of 50,000 started to be very one-on-one and very personal. I started seeing people I knew … Those were the people that had been around the ballpark all those years, and it was really a wonderful human experience.
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