The Streak: Lou Gehrig, Cal Ripken Jr., and Baseball's Most Historic Record

The Streak: Lou Gehrig, Cal Ripken Jr., and Baseball's Most Historic Record

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The fascinating story of baseball’s legendary “Ironmen,” two players from different eras who each achieved the coveted and sometimes confounding record of most consecutive games played

When Cal Ripken Jr. began his career with the Baltimore Orioles at age twenty-one, he had no idea he would someday beat the historic record of playing 2,130 games in a row, a record set forty-two years before by the fabled “Iron Horse” of the New York Yankees, Lou Gehrig. Ripken went on to surpass that record by 502 games, and the baseball world was floored. Few feats in sports history have generated more acclaim. But the record spawns an array of questions. When did someone first think it was a good idea to play in so many games without taking a day off? Who owned the record before Gehrig? Whose streak—Gehrig’s or Ripken’s—was the more difficult achievement?

Through probing research, meticulous analysis, and colorful parallel storytelling, The Streak delves into this impressive but controversial milestone, unraveling Gehrig’s at-times unwitting pursuit of that goal (Babe Ruth used to think Gehrig crazy for wanting to play every game), and Ripken’s fierce determination to stay in the lineup and continue to contribute whatever he could even as his skills diminished with age.

The question looms: How do these streaks compare? There were so many factors: the length of seasons, the number of teams in the major leagues, the inclusion of nonwhite players, travel, technology, medical advances, and even media are all part of the equation. This is a book that captures the deeply American appreciation—as seen in the sport itself—for a workaday mentality and that desire to be there for the game every time it called.

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  • Format: eBook

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780544103979

  • ISBN-10: 0544103971

  • Pages: 352

  • Price: $12.99

  • Publication Date: 07/04/2017

  • Carton Quantity: 1

John Eisenberg
Author

John Eisenberg

JOHN EISENBERG was an award-winning sports columnist for the Baltimore Sun for two decades and is the author of Ten-Gallon War,That First Season,My Guy Barbaro (cowritten with jockey Edgar Prado), and The Great Match Race. He has written for Smithsonian,Sports Illustrated, and Details, among other publications, and currently contributes columns to BaltimoreRavens.com. He lives in Baltimore, Maryland.  
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  • reviews

    "[Eisenberg] builds his story with shrewd analysis and good reporting. The result is a line-drive hit of a book, one that would make Gehrig and Mr. Ripken proud.”  

    Wall Street Journal 

     

    “The book uses historical study and new reporting to explain how Gehrig and Ripken did it and why it mattered. It tackles the allure of human endurance and the pitfalls of fame, but it is mostly a baseball book for baseball fans. It succeeds as both a thorough accounting and a love note to the game . . . Eisenberg dives into the evolution of the public’s view of consecutive-game streaks, from ignorance in the earliest days through fixation during Ripken’s run. The prose is straightforward, and the details are rich. The depth of his research about Gehrig and his precursors delights . . . “The Streak” is a worthy study of those who played with more reliability than any others.” 

    Washington Post 

     

    "Eisenberg’s impressively researched effort is a terrific tribute." 

    Publishers Weekly 

     

    "Eisenberg examines one of baseball's most venerated records while exploring what it all means, providing a compelling, thought-provoking history for fans of America's grand game."  

    Kirkus Reviews 

     

    "A readable and comprehensive look at one of baseball's most arcane but incredible accomplishments." 

    Library Journal 

     

    "What makes The Streak such a superb baseball book is the gorgeous weaving of two gripping narratives into one. Cal Ripken, Jr. is fascinating. Lou Gehrig is fascinating. Together, with John Eisenberg's deft touch, the reader is gifted with a saga for the ages." 

    –Jeff Pearlman, author of Gunslinger and Showtime 

     

    "I lived the Cal Ripken story, working for the Baltimore Evening Sun when Cal was drafted and cultivated in the Oriole system. I thought I knew everything about him...until I read this book. John Eisenberg has unearthed the real story of Cal and bookended it with Iron Horse. Spectacular.” 

    –Dan Shaughnessy, author of Francona (with Terry Francona) and Reversing the Curse 

     

  • excerpts

    Ripken 

      

    A Victory Lap 

     

      

    The fans sent wave after wave of cheers into a warm, late-summer night by the Chesapeake Bay, their ovation lasting three minutes, five, eight .?.?. so long that the umpires finally decided not to try to restart the game until the noise subsided. The Baltimore Orioles and California Angels had only played four and a half innings in Baltimore on September 6, 1995. Their game was just half over. And the longer the fans cheered, the more Cal Ripken Jr., the Orioles’ shortstop, whose historic feat was being celebrated, was becoming embarrassed about the length of the delay. 

       The Orioles were out of the American League playoff race, but the Angels had a shot at winning their division, so it mattered that they trailed Baltimore by two runs at the brick-and-wrought-iron ballpark known as Oriole Park at Camden Yards. Their pitcher, Shawn Boskie, had warmed up for the bottom of the fifth inning. He was ready to go. His teammates were at their defensive positions, also ready. But the cheering for Ripken was so persistent that the game could not possibly resume, and now Boskie was cooling down, seemingly a disadvantage. 

       Trying to quell the ovation, Ripken had twice emerged from the Orioles’ dugout, waving his arms and patting his heart to acknowledge the cheers and indicate his appreciation. He was deeply touched. But he hoped his gesture would bring the celebration to a close, much like an actor’s curtain call on a Broadway stage. He owed that to the Angels, he thought. But the fans just kept cheering. If anything, they were getting louder. 

       Ripken’s teammates had convinced him to take the second curtain call, thinking that would end the ovation and enable the game to resume. But it did not, and now Ripken was back on the dugout bench, shaking his head, smiling, and wondering what he could do to stop the noise raining down from the stands. 

       “Hey, why don’t you go run around the field or something?” shouted Rafael Palmeiro, Baltimore’s first baseman, who stood in front of Ripken. 

       Ripken looked at him with a quizzical expression. Run around the field? 

       Palmeiro shrugged. “I don’t know. Go out there and shake their hands,” he continued. “Maybe that will get them to stop.” 

       As Ripken pondered the idea, Palmeiro quickly repeated it, adding with a shout, “You need to go out there!” 

       Another veteran teammate, Bobby Bonilla, picked up on the suggestion. Seated next to Ripken on the bench, Bonilla leaned over and shouted in his teammate’s ear, “Junior, if you don’t go out there, we may never finish this game!” 

       Ripken gave a halfhearted smile, clearly unconvinced. Spontaneous gestures made him uncomfortable. He was a planner, a pragmatist. Whatever endeavor he undertook, on or off the baseball diamond, he researched it, reflected on it, devised an approach, and saw it through. “He wore a watch in batting practice to make sure everything ran on time. That’s how organized and precise he was in everything he did,” recalled Phil Regan, the Orioles’ manager in 1995. And running around the field in the middle of this historic game was not in Ripken’s plans. 

       Honestly, he thought it sounded ridiculous. Who had ever heard of such a thing? The game was his day at the office, a sacred time reserved for focusing on his job, his craft, his teammates and opponents. Interacting with fans was the last thing he should do, even on a night history was being made. Ripken’s father, a crusty baseball lifer, had taught him the sport’s sober code of conduct. Respect the game. Let your performance do your talking. The game matters more than you. 

    Running around the field and shaking hands with fans in the fifth inning was antithetical to everything Ripken believed. But Palmeiro was not interested in debating philosophy.    He just wanted to get the game going again. 

       He grabbed Ripken by the shoulders and pulled the six-foot-four, 230-pound shortstop up the dugout steps. Bonilla joined in, holding Ripken’s left arm. They pulled him onto the field, dragged him a few steps, and playfully shoved him down the right-field foul line. Ripken, laughing, offered no resistance. 

       “Pushing him out of the dugout wasn’t planned. We didn’t talk about it beforehand or anything,” Palmeiro recalled. “The fans were just so incredibly into the situation. It was a nonstop ovation. As long as Cal sat in the dugout, we might still be sitting there. When we said, ‘Go run around the field or something,’ he wouldn’t do it. So we pushed him out there.” 

       The fans roared at the sight of Ripken back on the field. He took several wandering steps, hugged one of the Orioles’ coaches, and waved. Palmeiro’s idea echoed in his mind. Run around. Shake hands with them. 

       “OK,” Ripken thought. “I’ll try it.” 

      

    It was the strangest of baseball celebrations when you thought about it ?— ?not the product of an awe-inducing home run barrage, prodigious career hit record, or any of the kinds of spectacular achievements that usually generated acclaim. Ripken was in the spotlight for the simplest of baseball acts: Just being on the field. Playing. As opposed to not playing. 

       His repertoire of talents included much more than just his enduring presence, of course. A sure-handed fielder and reliably productive hitter, he would earn two American League Most Valuable Player awards and make 15 All-Star Game appearances by the end of his 21-year major league career. The first shortstop to accumulate 3,000 hits and 400 home runs, he would alter basic notions about his position. Once he came along, a shortstop could hit for power and anchor a lineup as well as solidify his team’s infield defense. When Ripken was eligible for induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, in 2007, an overwhelming 98.6 percent of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America’s voters said he belonged. 

       Yet the most outstanding aspect of his career was the fact that he played in 2,632 straight games, all for the Orioles. 

       For more than 16 years, from May 30, 1982, through September 19, 1998, he was ever present in Baltimore’s lineup. The Orioles’ fortunes careened through soaring highs, such as a World Series triumph, and appalling lows, such as a season-opening 21-game losing streak. Ripken never rested. They made seven managerial changes, including the hiring and firing of Ripken’s father. He continued to play. The United States went through four presidential election seasons, electing Ronald Reagan in 1984, George H.?W. Bush in 1988, Bill Clinton in 1992, and Clinton again in 1996. Ripken never missed a game. 

       Along the way, he badly sprained an ankle, twisted a knee in a brawl, bowled over catchers in home-plate collisions, was hit by dozens of pitches, fought the flu, developed a serious back ailment, and grew from a callow youngster to a middle-aged father of two. But he never suffered an injury that forced him to stop playing, and he never said he was so tired that he needed to take a game off. 

       No major leaguer had ever played so continuously without interruption, and his consecutive-game streak eventually earned a place

Available Resources

Related Categories

  • Format: eBook

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780544103979

  • ISBN-10: 0544103971

  • Pages: 352

  • Price: $12.99

  • Publication Date: 07/04/2017

  • Carton Quantity: 1

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