Front office relieved by signing Happy to avoid worst-case scenario


At 7:36 p.m., just as the game was supposed to start, onto the field walked Orioles president Larry Lucchino, general manager Roland Hemond and, on his 32nd birthday, Cal Ripken.

As Rex Barney announced that Ripken had the new $30.5 million contract, the shortstop waved to the crowd, faced the cameras and went over to the screen behind home plate and spoke to his wife, Kelly, who was holding their daughter, Rachel.

That was it. The event lasted not much more than a minute.

Hemond was asked later when he told Johnny Oates about the signing.

"Not until it was finalized," Hemond said, meaning about 6:50 p.m.

Oates' reaction? "He just beamed," Hemond said. "He said, 'That's great. He's in the lineup tonight.' "

And into the lineup Ripken went, for his 1,698th consecutive game, leaving him 432 shy of Lou Gehrig's all-time record.

When Lucchino was in San Diego for this year's All-Star Game, he recalled thinking what it would be like next year, when the All-Star Game will be played in Baltimore, if Ripken weren't with the Orioles.

"I thought it would be a sad irony if the longest applause at the 1993 game was for Cal Ripken in another uniform," Lucchino said. "I didn't think that was the way the world should turn."

Home Team Sports analyst John Lowenstein, who played for the Orioles from 1979 to 1985, recalls making $6,000 in his first year in the majors. He would love to have some of Ripken's "fallout."

For $30 million, "just to put the contract in perspective," he said in jest, "you can buy a house, a car, take a trip around the world, and get a divorce -- and still have $15 million left."

Seriously, he said: "I don't see how anyone can spend $30 million. It seems to me it's an incentive for the Major League Players Association to pump up salaries and make them look good.

"Couldn't Cal have signed for $30 million back in the spring? Now he's getting $30.5 -- all this misery this season for a lousy $500,000. He may be under more pressure now, feeling he has to live up to the contract."

Whitey Herzog, an Orioles outfielder in 1961 and 1962, was at the game in his capacity as an Angels senior vice president.

"I think it's wonderful for Cal, the club and Baltimore," Herzog said.

Herzog's peak major-league salary was $18,000, maybe, he reckons, $15,000 when he was with the Orioles.

" 'Diamond' was making the most on the Orioles back then, about $30,000," Herzog said, referring to first baseman Jim Gentile, who had 46 home runs and 141 RBI in 1961. "At $18,000, I was in the upper 50 percent."

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