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He sees stars after broken nose, drives O's to ALCS

Fifteenth of a series recounting Cal Ripken's 20 major-league seasons.

Cal Ripken suffered two breaks in 1996 - one to his nose, another to his streak of consecutive starts at the same position.

The season ended with Ripken in the American League Championship Series, so the pain didn't come without gains.

Ripken batted .278 with 40 doubles and 26 home runs, and exceeded 100 RBIs for the first time since being named Most Valuable Player in 1991. He also batted .444 in a Division Series upset of the Cleveland Indians. But Ripken seemed to get more attention for a team photo taken before the All-Star Game.

Standing beside Roberto Hernandez, Ripken absorbed a backhand to the face when the Chicago White Sox closer lost his balance. To no one's surprise, Ripken played anyway.

Ripken was in no danger of ending his consecutive-games streak. He already had played in No. 2,216 on June 14 in Kansas City to pass Japan's Sachio Kinugasa for the world record. It would be two more years before he finally sat, his nose still straight.

The season included other oddities and milestones.

Ripken batted seventh in a May 14 game in Oakland, the first time he was placed that low in the order since his first full season in the majors in 1982. Two weeks later, he hit three homers and drove in eight runs in a game at Seattle's Kingdome.

On July 15, Ripken started at third base because manager Davey Johnson, always quick to remind everyone who was in charge, wanted to prove that no one influenced his lineup - including a certain Hall of Famer - while also taking an extended look at shortstop prospect Manny Alexander.

The experiment lasted six games, during which Alexander went 1-for-18 with nine strikeouts and two errors. Ripken was 4-for-24, but made a diving stop and throw from his knees to record an out on the first ball hit to him after the move.

Ripken had made 2,216 consecutive starts at short, a major-league record for any position. He committed an error on April 6, his first since July 18, 1995 - a span of 74 games.

Not satisfied with taking down other team's legends, Ripken collected his 819th extra-base hit on April 13 to move past Brooks Robinson for first place on the Orioles' all-time list. The next month, Ripken hit his 334th career homer to bump Eddie Murray from atop the club list.

Statistics

Year G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI Avg.

1996 163 640 94 178 40 1 26 102 .278

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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