CLEVELAND -- Two old friends met near the batting cage at Jacobs Field yesterday, one leaning on a bat, the other lying on his side and stretching out his legs. They probably never talked about what everybody else talks about when they talk about these two old friends.
Cleveland first baseman Eddie Murray, closing in on his 3,000th hit, and Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken, who played in his 2,052nd straight game last night. Two old friends.
Without a doubt, Ripken was talking about his old friend, and the influence Murray had on his career. Murray was already an All-Star, an MVP candidate, when Ripken became a regular in 1982.
Murray taught him, Ripken said, "the importance of playing in the lineup every day. The importance of the stability of the lineup by being in there.
"He took me under his wing and taught me a lot of things. I think we approach the game essentially the same way. I know that even when the streak began, it was Eddie, watching him play every day, and watching him come in and play day games after night games, play when the big-time pitchers threw against us.
"It would've been easy for him to take an off day. It was him who taught me the importance of being in there from a team perspective: in the long haul, it could boil down to one game or two games. The stability that he provided with his offense and his bat in the lineup, and his defense showed me how important it was. He was the big example for me."
Ripken said that he and Murray benefited from a philosophy -- of consistency, of taking everything day by day -- that was taught in the Orioles' farm system.
"Eddie had the benefit of coming through the system when it was really operating well," Ripken said. "Eddie learned [the philosophy], and was taught it, and had five more years' experience than I had. He was actually living it and playing it, and he could speak to me from actual experience. I only knew about the concept.
"The impact that he had on a young player who wanted to establish himself and be in the lineup every day and be in the middle of the lineup, you only had to look next door and see him going out there and doing it every day, and showing you how important it was.
"Without him pulling me aside and telling me this is the way you've got to do things, he continued to go out there and play. If you were there and watched him, you wanted to do the same thing he did."
Developed in the same farm system, instilled with the same approach, the two old friends are very similar.
"I think our personalities are similar," Ripken said, "in that we want to go out and do a job. You're proud of the job you do, but you don't want to get too much praise for it. We're different personalities in the way that we handle things off the field, but when we get on the field, we're like each other for a lot of reasons."
Ripken referred to a conversation he had with Murray in 1984, on a trip to Japan. Ripken was looking at a media guide and noticed that Murray would have a chance to reach 500 homers and 3,000 hits.
"I knew it was going to happen," Ripken said. "He's been great for a long period of time. I'm very happy he's been able to play so long and be so productive."