Ripken's streak nearly KO'd by brawl

BOSTON — BOSTON -- Shortstop Cal Ripken suffered a twisted right knee during last Sunday's brawl with the Seattle Mariners and was sore enough the next day to consider ending the second-longest playing streak in baseball history.

Ripken said that he discussed ending the streak with his wife, Kelly, after he woke up Monday with severe stiffness in his knee.


"There was a fear factor because I had never injured either of my knees before," Ripken said. "I woke up, and it was very stiff. It was difficult to do anything on it. Early in the morning it didn't seem like I was going to able to play."

The injury occurred when Ripken was wading into the pileup at the mound after Mariners catcher Bill Haselman tackled Orioles pitcher Mike Mussina in the seventh inning of the Orioles' 5-2 victory at Camden Yards. Yesterday, the Washington Post reported the injury and the discussion with his wife.


"I was running toward the pile, and I tried to change direction and my foot slipped in the grass," said Ripken, who ended up in the middle of the 20-minute melee.

So the brawl, which left Mariners pitcher Chris Bosio sidelined with a reinjured shoulder, almost changed baseball history. Ripken nearly ended his streak at 1,790 games, 340 games shy of Lou Gehrig's all-time record.

"It seemed at the time like it was a serious injury," Ripken said. "I was talking to my wife, and she said, 'Do you think you can just play one inning tonight.' I said, 'You, too?' She said, 'I thought that was the most important thing to you,' and I said, 'If I can't play I'm not willing to play."

Ripken long has maintained that he wants to do nothing artificial to extend the streak. Gehrig, on one occasion, took one at-bat as the leadoff hitter in the first inning and then took himself out of a game to get a day off. Kelly Ripken was suggesting the same type of thing -- something that has been suggested by others during the years -- but Ripken has said he would end the streak before he would taint it that way.

The sore knee, which Ripken says has improved steadily since Monday, was the second significant threat to the 11-year playing streak. Ripken almost ended it before it became newsworthy when he sprained his ankle in a game against the Texas Rangers early in the 1985 season.

That time, he said, he took advantage of a scheduled day off to recover sufficiently to keep the streak alive.

"This was about the same kind of thing," said Ripken, who had a season-high five RBI last night. "But the difference was that I had injured my ankles on other occasions doing other things and I knew what to expect. I didn't know what to expect this time. When it was worse Monday than it had been Sunday, I didn't think it was going to improve enough to be able to play.

"I was still unsure when I got to the ballpark, but I took some batting practice and fielded some balls, and it felt all right," he said.


Manager Johnny Oates said yesterday that he was aware that Ripken was sore on Monday, but he referred all questions about the situation to Ripken.