Remembering 2,131: Memories of Cal Ripken Jr.'s magical night

Those in attendance felt pressure to live up to the magnitude of 2,131 to honor Cal Ripken Jr.'s feat.

It has been two decades since Cal Ripken Jr. played in his 2,131st consecutive game, but for those who were at Camden Yards on the night Ripken stepped into history, the memories are still vivid.

Twenty years later, some are still connected to the Orioles franchise. But one resounding theme most shared was an inherent pressure to live up to the moment. They knew they were around history, perhaps the greatest baseball moment they'd ever witness and they wanted to perform for the man who performed every day.

Here are seven different perspectives from around the ballpark the night on Sept. 6, 1995.

Brady Anderson

Former Orioles center fielder/current Orioles vice president

Brady Anderson was the Orioles' starting center fielder and leadoff hitter on the night of 2,131. He is now the team's vice president of baseball operations and still remains one of Ripken's closest friends and confidants.

"I had to give a speech that night, so that was on my mind. I guess a month before, the team had asked me to write something. On the night he tied it and the night he passed it, I felt a lot of pressure to perform well in the game. I don't know why. Maybe it's the way athletes think or maybe it's the way I think, but your mind never stops racing. I had to give this speech and I didn't want to get up there after playing two games poorly. I played really well. … [2,131] was an historic game. I was in the game and those were very important playoff-atmosphere-type games, or at least I thought so. … I wanted to be a part of his day as best I could and I thought that would be by performing well in those games. That was really important for me.

"Leading up to the Streak, because we were best friends and I'd talk to him all the time every day, and usually we'd have a little chat or something in between innings while I was going out to left field or center field. When his streak became official, that's when he started getting the standing ovations, that's when I would veer around him [running to the outfield]. In the dugout, I'd ordinarily [be nearby]. You'd see in films, when you see him doing his tour around the stadium, when you see him on the bench, you'll never see me.

"I kind of kept away from him for many reasons. I didn't want to be the guy who was, 'Hey look at me, I'm next to Cal.' But also I wanted to observe it because I grew up a baseball fan and I wanted to retain that sense of being a fan the best that I could, even though I wasn't a fan anymore. I was a player. But I kind of view all of his day like that."

Fred Manfra

Orioles radio broadcaster

Fred Manfra called 2,131 on the radio for the Orioles radio network along with Jon Miller. They received a visit from President Bill Clinton when Ripken homered in the fourth inning. Manfra is currently in his 23rd season calling Orioles games on the radio.

"Growing up in East Baltimore in a blue-collar neighborhood where all my neighbors worked at Bethlehem Steel or Fisher Body or Lever Brothers, worked shift work, whether they were baseball fans or not, they were talking about Cal Ripken and this streak. They compared Cal to getting up every day and going to their jobs, whether he was healthy or not, and not missing a day of work. That's what they equated it to, so that's what made it special for them. So whether you were a baseball fan or whether you were a non-baseball fan, it was a matter of pride that someone from Baltimore was doing this and being recognized around the world for this great accomplishment.

"Jon Miller and I were calling the game and all of a sudden the President comes in. … He came in, very affable, very cordial. He knew everything about both of us. I'm sure he was prepped. But it was kind of neat. He knew everything about the Orioles. He talked baseball and then as he sat down, Cal hit that home run. That was a tremendous moment, just to be there for that moment. What was neat was that Jon and I turned the broadcast [over to him]. He talked and was doing the play-by-play. You sit back when the President does play-by-play. You sit back and let him take over.

Having grown up in Baltimore, being a lifelong Orioles fan was something special. It brought out memories of me and my dad playing baseball. … It just made you proud to be a Baltimore Oriole, a Baltimore Orioles fan and a Baltimorean. There's more to it than just baseball. There's the whole pride aspect. Cal was carrying the banner of Baltimore around the world."

Buster Olney

Former Baltimore Sun Orioles beat writer/current ESPN baseball writer

Buster Olney covered the Orioles and 2,131 for The Sun. He is now with ESPN, where he covers baseball for ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine, and is an in-game reporter for ESPN TV broadcasts.

"I vividly remember going to the ballpark feeling a lot of pressure to generate something special, something to match the event, which is why I've never read anything I wrote from that night. When I left the ballpark that night, I knew I hadn't done something as well as I wanted or expected. A few years ago, a friend gave me a T-shirt that The Sun had produced in the days that followed and on the front was emblazoned a shot of the sports section cover, and my bylined story is on the right-hand side. I couldn't bring myself to look at it, or to read any of the words. So for myself, it was a night of real regret.

"But what I remember most about the night itself was how Cal met the moment. When that season began, he hadn't really warmed to the topic, but I thought that about two months into it, he began to really embrace the importance of his milestone. He was the symbol of integrity for baseball at a time when it needed that the most because of the labor stoppage, and everywhere the Orioles went, he connected with fans, making an effort to sign for them and chat with them. On a brutally hot day at the All-Star Game workday afternoon in Texas, he signed for what seemed like more than an hour, and of course, there were the nights well-documented when he would sign at Camden Yards after games. The response to him on the night of 2,131, I thought, reflected all the effort that Cal not only put into his performance as a player, but also his effort to link to fans. After that game, he talked about how, as he circled the field and reached out to fans, and fans reached out to him, Cal recognized faces, people he knew.

"That was because Cal made the effort to respond to them, and that's rare. That year, I had the vote for the MVP Award in the American League, and I gave Cal the 10th place vote on my ballot as an acknowledgment of how important he was to baseball that summer."

Mark Jacobson

Orioles official scorer

Mark Jacobson was the official scorer for 2,131. He has been an official scorer for the Orioles since 1992 and is still one of two scorers the Orioles use for all games at Camden Yards. His scorecard of Ripken's 2,131 game is in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown.

"As a scorer, you're just hoping you don't have to call four errors on the guy that day. But he was so solid that year. I think he made only seven errors that year and only four of them were at home and I had two of them. He was just really solid, so you didn't have to worry about that.

"Mostly, it was seeing the acknowledgment he got from the players on the opposing team that I'll remember the most. That's really moving when you see a guy's colleagues in competition acknowledge him. You see it a little bit more now than you used to, just like you see more curtain calls than you did 40 years ago. But just seeing the thought that other teams put into that, some of them did formations, or they'd hold back and applaud and then go out in formations. It was almost like a drill.

"I remember the entire homestand. … The Mariners came and they were doing the count-up on the warehouse every day, the Orioles were losing most of those games, which meant that they were on the field when the number was dropped. And [Mariners outfielder] Jay Buhner told me after one of those games, he doubled in the top of the sixth, he was on second and he said to Cal, 'Am I less of a man if I get a tear in my eye when they do that ceremony?' And Cal said to him, 'How do you think I feel? Why do you think I wear the dark glasses every day?'"

Steve Clevenger

Baltimore native/current Orioles catcher

Orioles catcher Steve Clevenger was a 9-year-old Orioles fan who grew up about 10 blocks away from Camden Yards in Pigtown. A lifelong Orioles and Ripken fan, Clevenger — a Mount St. Joseph product — watched 2,131 from upper-deck seats to the left of the left-field foul pole. Clevenger and right-hander Steve Johnson are the only two Baltimore natives on the Orioles' current roster.

"I was only 9, so I don't think I really knew what it meant. I knew he was breaking a big record, but I didn't realize how big of a record or how many games in a row that is. I just remember all the cameras going off and Cal running around the field for that 20 minutes or whatever. Cal was obviously everybody's favorite player in Baltimore. When you think about the Orioles, he's probably the most memorable name that comes up, especially in my era.

"The main thing is that many games in a row, it's unbelievable. Being a player now and playing in the major leagues and going from a 9-year-old kid and not realizing to actually playing in the big leagues and realizing how many games in a row that is, you have to have so many things go your way and your body has to cooperate. I'm going to go ahead and say it, 99.9 percent of the time, it's not going to happen, your body's not going to cooperate with you over the course of a season. To go, [16] years, consecutive years, that's a record that I don't think will ever be touched.

"It's an unbelievable record. I think it's a record that's not even going to be close to being broken anymore. To go that many years consecutively playing and not have a little freak injury or getting hit by a pitch or breaking a bone or something like that, it's unbelievable. To want to play that many games in a row is tough. To play 162 games in one season alone it tough. …To play [2,632] games in a row is really unthinkable.

"I was down the third-base line in the nosebleeds. I was probably about three rows from the very back. … I don't think there was a bad seat in the house that night. Any seat was good that night."

Kristen Schultz

Former Orioles intern/current Orioles director of community relations and promotions

Kristen Schultz was an Orioles college intern in 1995. Her responsibilities the night of 2,131 were to escort the national anthem performers that night, Bruce Hornsby and Branford Marsalis, as well as help release balloons from the flag court after the numbers on the warehouse changed when the game became official in the fifth inning. Schultz is currently the Orioles director of community relations and promotions.

"One of my jobs was to release the balloons on cue, which apparently we screwed up because we really didn't send them in a large bunch. They were in clusters. So, I'll never live that down. … That's the video that keeps going over and over again and I keep cursing myself for supposedly screwing it up, but I think it looks fine.

"The night itself, it was just a chilling experience. I was just a little junior in college and seeing all these celebrities, all these high-profile athletes here to be a part of the moment, and just to see Cal. I grew up loving Cal as a child watching him for many years, rooting for him. He was my favorite player. I just realized the feat was just crazy. Just to be on the field for all the ceremonies, I kind of had to pinch myself a little bit. … I went to James Madison, so every opportunity to come back to work games, I would, but typically on a weeknight I wouldn't have. But I did make that effort that night. I probably skipped a couple classes, probably the only time I skipped classes.

"Now, I'm the person planning these types of events. Knowing that I have to live up to this moment, from a career standpoint or an occupation standpoint, it's been a challenge. You have to live up to it and do an event that's on par, but there's no way you're going to match it and you can't replicate it. There are so many times when people say, 'Let's have a player do a lap.' No, that's sacred. You're never going to have a player do a lap again. You're never going to hang banners [on the warehouse] like that again. It always comes up when you're planning a milestone event, but you also have to have some of the synergy as well."

Mary Meyers

Orioles fan assistance supervisor

Mary Meyers was a fan assistance supervisor at Camden Yards at the time of 2,131. She worked on the club level that night and watched from Section 242 behind home plate. She is currently in her 27th season working for the Orioles, supervising about 25 workers.

"That night, the crowd was just electric. It was really like a playoff atmosphere. Everybody wanted to be here. It was just an amazing atmosphere. It was like the playoffs or even like the night we knocked Boston out of the playoffs [in 2011], because the crowd was going crazy and watching all the Red Sox fans kind of limp out of here.

"I really think that was just an important moment in time, not just for the Orioles or for Cal, but for baseball. We were coming off the strike and that really put the focus back on the game, the game we all love. That's why I'm here. I love baseball. The fans, I think they all just appreciated the magnitude of what was happening. I just keep thinking about everybody wanting to be here to soak it in."

eencina@baltsun.com

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