By Roch Kubatko
September 23, 2001
Baseball found a way to get Cal Ripken off the field in 1994. It stopped playing.
The season lasted until Aug. 12, when players went on strike. Team owners canceled the remaining 249 games of the regular season, and there was no World Series for the first time since 1904.
Ripken had enough time to hit .315, and his 75 RBIs were second on the team to Rafael Palmeiro's 76. It was Ripken's finest season since being named Most Valuable Player in 1991. It also was his shortest, lasting 112 games and jeopardizing The Streak.
The owners threatened to use replacement players, which could have left Ripken 122 games shy of Lou Gehrig's record. Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos, champion of union workers, refused to support the idea, and state and city legislators backed him by passing laws that banned the use of replacement players at Camden Yards.
The strike wasn't settled until 7 1/2 months had passed, but at least The Streak was preserved. No replacement players. No end to a chase that began to captivate a national audience.
"I felt a little bit uncomfortable becoming a focus, as it was," Ripken said a year later. "I felt uncomfortable about it being an issue of collective bargaining. I felt uncomfortable about it being an issue about replacement baseball."
Players on other teams said they would have understood if Ripken crossed the picket line. "This is no everyday record," said then-Houston pitcher Todd Jones. "This is a Halley's comet-type thing he's going after. It's safe to say that none of the union members would hold it against him."
After the strike was resolved, Ripken said, "In some cases, with Mr. Angelos' stance and people having a definite opinion and seeing me as a victim, what happened was that my situation became a symbol of everyone's feelings - the fans' feelings about baseball - how we follow statistics and how we follow history and how important the game is to us. They were using me as a symbol to show their feelings for baseball, and that's great because I feel the same way."
There were enough at-bats for Ripken to collect his 300th home run on May 24 in Milwaukee, and extend his record for shortstops.
The season began right for Ripken, who batted .340 in April. He finished it by hitting .369 with 25 RBIs over the last 39 games.
It just ended too soon.
Year G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI Avg.
1994 112 444 71 140 19 3 13 75 .315
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