20 years ago today: Cal Ripken saved baseball by becoming the new Iron Man

I was nine when this day happened. I didn’t even know much about baseball, let alone the league had a strike that season. I remember my P.E. teacher talking about it and telling us to go home and watch the game because it was important. I didn’t know why it was important. I didn’t even watch it.

It happened. I saw a newspaper clip about it and that’s it.

Twenty years later, I look back at this moment and smile. I am a huge baseball fan now. Way bigger than what I was 20 years ago. I didn’t start getting into baseball until 1998 and that was when we had the big home run chase by Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. So by then, the moment had passed.

But still, it’s one of those moments in baseball that we needed. Baseball needed it.

Lou Gehrig, one of the most beloved players in the game’s history, was the story for the evening. His record was about to be broken by another beloved player. Cal Ripken was the perfect man to do it. He was classy throughout his career and he is the kind of sports role model we can look up to.

Look at who attended this game: Frank Robinson, Joe DiMaggio, President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore. This was a big deal.

After all baseball had endured to lose the trust of the fan base because of the strike the previous year, for one moment in time, we were reminded why the game of baseball is so beautiful. For a moment in time, we remember why we love the game. For a moment in time, we forgot about all the fighting and were instead united.

This celebration was 22 minutes long. I don’t think there has ever been a joy as universally celebrated by all of baseball in history. We needed it. Cal delivered it — as he always does. Baseball was OK again.

Can you believe it? Twenty years ago today, baseball was truly happy again. Thanks, Cal!


You know what makes Cal Ripken so great? He has always loved the fans. You can see it in the above video. This past summer at the Hall of Fame, Ripken signed autographs during the parade. He stayed signing autographs longer than anyone else did. After the ceremony, he returned to sign more autographs. He couldn’t accommodate everyone and as hard as I tried, I was unable to get him to sign my baseball among the crowd of fans.

He didn’t have to stick around. But he did. He loves the fans and the game that much. Next year, I will get his autograph. I must.


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