Kid brings glory to vets

They had known him since he was a kid. His father had managed them in the minors or coached them in the majors. They needed the kid.

Many of their careers were on the wane, and they wanted to win a World Series together.

The kid came through.

Cal Ripken Jr. won the American League's Most Valuable Player Award and the Orioles won the 1983 World Series because he fit in with a team of veterans.

"That was probably the best group of personalities that could ever be put together," said second baseman Rich Dauer, rattling off the names of former teammates, such as Al Bumbry, Ken Singleton, Eddie Murray, Jim Palmer and John Lowenstein.

Ripken had known them for years. He was 3 years old when he met Palmer at Single-A Aberdeen, 13 when he met Dauer at Double-A Asheville and 14 when he met Singleton at spring training. Growing up around these players, Ripken had learned how to act in the clubhouse and how to carry himself on the field.

"The strength of the Orioles was continuity," Palmer said, "and Cal fit right in."

"He was so well schooled," Singleton said, "and he wasn't going to make the same rookie mistakes. He just didn't do any of those things."

"It was evident to us that he was going to be a great player," Dauer said.

In Ripken, they saw the future.

But the veterans led the way.

They had a lot to prove. They had lost their manager, they had lost the division title on the last day of the previous season and about 15 of them had lost the 1979 World Series after leading the Pittsburgh Pirates three games to one. The Palmers, Singletons and Dauers did not have much time left to redeem themselves.

"We thought it was our last chance," Singleton said, "and we were going to get it done."

Singleton squeezed out one last good season, hitting .276 with 18 home runs and 84 RBIs. Palmer, battling injuries and pitching out of the bullpen for most of the season, provided vocal leadership and became the first pitcher to win a World Series game in each of three decades. Mike Flanagan started the season 6-0, suffered a knee injury, but came back in August and pitched in a bulky brace.

The offensive backbone of the team was Ripken and Murray. They were superstars who hit 3-4 in the Orioles' lineup and who enjoyed each other's company off the field. "They were similar personalities in a way," Palmer said. "They were never rah-rah guys."

The only rivalry between them was a friendly one. They had a running bet about who would finish the season with fewer strikeouts. The loser had to pick up the tab at a nice restaurant "without any prices on the menu."

Murray won the bet. He struck out seven fewer times (90) than Ripken (97).

Ripken won the Most Valuable Player Award. He had made fewer enemies in the media.

"The media's not going to make Eddie MVP," Singleton said.

Murray finished second for the second year in a row despite hitting .306 with 33 home runs and 111 RBIs. His midseason absence because of a knee injury proved his worth. "He missed five games, and we lost them all," Palmer said.

Ripken played in every game in 1983. He began to receive attention for his consecutive-games streak that stood at 280 and his consecutive-innings streak that began midway through the 1982 season. Joe Altobelli, the Orioles' new manager, said he tried to remove Ripken from the end of several games, but Ripken talked him out of it: "He said, 'I can play these last two innings standing on my head. I'm OK, Joe.' "

Neither Ripken nor Murray played particularly well in the postseason. Other players took over once the two superstars got them there. Tito Landrum hit a dramatic, 10th-inning home run to knock the Chicago White Sox out of the playoffs. Dempsey was named the World Series MVP after hitting .385 (5-for-13).

Ripken hit only .167 with one RBI during the World Series. But the last out of the final game, Garry Maddox's line drive, was hit right to him.

In 1984, veterans such as Singleton and Palmer retired. A few years later, Murray's star fell in the eyes of Baltimoreans. The team would be in Ripken's hands.

Season highlights

  • Becomes first player to win league Rookie of the Year and MVP awards in back-to-back seasons.
  • Is one of only three major- leaguers to play in 162 games this year, but the only player to play every inning.
  • Tops major-league shortstops in assists (534) and leads American League in total chances (831) and double plays (113).
  • Becomes first Oriole to play every inning of every game.
  • Appears in American League's first All-Star victory since 1971.
  • Shares Most Valuable Oriole award with Eddie Murray. It is only the third time the award voting is tied.
  • His .318 batting average ranks at time as third highest in Orioles history.
  • Never goes more than two straight games without a hit.
  • Reaches base in 143 of 162 games.
  • His 16-game hitting streak is the longest this season by an Oriole.
  • Establishes team records for hits (211) and doubles (47) in a season.
  • Sets a major-league record for most at-bats in a season without stealing a base (663).
  • Receives American League Player of the Month award for September, when he hits .393 (53-for-135) with six homers and 19 RBIs in 31 games.
  • Bats .313 (51-for-163) with runners in scoring position.

Stats Line

Year .318 162 663 121 211 47 2 27 102 58 97 0 25
Career .288 345 1300 212 374 79 7 55 195 105 200 3 40

The year in baseball . . .

  • Steve Garvey injures his thumb on July 29, ending his consecutive-games streak at a National League- record 1,207.
  • George Brett has a home run taken away for having pine tar on his bat more than 18 inches from the knob on July 24 against the New York Yankees.
  • LaMarr Hoyt goes 13-0 the second half to win the American League Cy Young Award.
  • Gaylord Perry, Carl Yastrzemski and Johnny Bench all retire.

. . and the world

  • The Brooklyn Bridge turns 100.
  • Chicago and Philadelphia elect African-American mayors.
  • Lotto first appears in Maryland.
  • Baltimore opens its subway.
  • Congress approves the MX missile.
  • "M*A*S*H" finale records the largest rating and share for any TV show.
  • Michael Jackson scores six Top 10 singles.

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