He is criticized almost as infrequently as he suffers a serious injury. That's why it was such a shock when Cal Ripken was taken to task by San Francisco Giants coach Bobby Bonds, who denounced Ripken's consecutive-games streak.
"[It's] idiotic," Bonds said in May 1993. "If I were his manager, he'd be out of there. He's hurting the team and showing that personal goals are more important. He wants to break Lou Gehrig's record even if it'll cost Baltimore the pennant." Bonds' comments belied the way Ripken played during the 1993 season. He knocked out two catchers at home plate, almost dislocated his shoulder making a diving catch, nearly was hit in the head by a sharp ground ball and injured his knee in a bench-clearing brawl.
Ripken sacrificed his body but avoided serious injuries by doling out more punishment than he took.
"Somewhere along the line, years ago, I thought that you can insulate yourself from injuries by playing all-out, by playing the way the game is supposed to be played," Ripken said during a recent news conference.
The victims of Ripken's hard-nosed style were opposing players.
In a June 9 home-plate collision, Ripken decked Oakland Athletics catcher Terry Steinbach with a forearm to the jaw. Ripken was tagged out on the play.
Steinbach was out of the game. He has left early only twice because of home-plate collisions. This one caused headaches and dizziness. When Steinbach got to the bench, a team trainer placed a cold, wet towel on his head.
"It was very, very . . . memorable," Steinbach said last week from his Kansas City hotel room.
It also was retaliatory. Earlier in the game, Ripken had been hit on the wrist by a pitch from Bob Welch in response to an inside fastball thrown at Steinbach.
"I was sure that had something to do with the play at the plate," Steinbach said.
Steinbach understands what happens during the course of a game and does not hold the collision against Ripken. If anything, the forearm increased his respect for Ripken.
"A person like him, especially chasing that record the last couple years, might be more reserved. Not him," Steinbach said. "He's very aggressive. He does what it takes to win."
It doesn't take a pitch thrown at his wrist for Ripken to knock over a catcher. In a September game in Boston, former teammate Bob Melvin needed threestitches to close a gash above his eye.
Ripken's collision with Melvin was only part of the peril on that nine-game trip. In Boston, Ripken was hit by a pitch and injured his shoulder making a spectacular catch. In Cleveland, a bad-hop grounder by former teammate Randy Milligan nearly hit him in the head.
A 6-foot-4, 220-pound shortstop, Ripken does not worry about getting hurt.
"The time when you get the chance to be injured is the time you let up your guard for a minute or not run out a ball hard or basically try to avoid a collision that would take the second baseman out,' Ripken said. 'It's better to go out and do what you've been trained to do all these years than to try and do something different.
Ripken's most serious injury of 1993 did not occur while the ball was in play. A few days before running over Steinbach, Ripken twisted his knee during a brawl with the Seattle Mariners.
It was the second-closest call of his career next to a 1985 ankle injury. Ripken played on, finishing the 1993 season with a .257 batting average, 24 home runs and 90 RBIs, and with 1,897 consecutive games.
"I'm amazed at the things that get attributed to Cal about the streak, like the thing with Bobby Bonds,' Orioles broadcaster Jon Miller said that season. 'Every time there has been a brawl or a near brawl, Cal has been one of the first guys out there. If the streak is so important to him, what's he doing out there?"
* Paces major-league shortstops in home runs for the ninth time in 11 years and in RBIs for the eighth time.
* Receives career-high 19 intentional walks.
* Hits career-best eight three-run homers.
* Singles off Chicago's Wilson Alvarez on July 10 at Camden Yards for his 2,000th hit.
* Hits a three-run homer in the eighth inning in his first game after his second child, Ryan Calvin, is born.
* Accounts for 22 percent of all home runs hit by American League shortstops.
* Has twice as many homers as any other AL shortstop.
* Doesn't go two straight games without a hit after the All-Star break.
* Leads AL shortstops in assists and total chances.
* Finishes fourth among all players in the All-Star balloting.
* Is the lone Orioles starter at the All-Star Game at Camden Yards. * Cleveland pitchers Steve Olin and Tim Crews are killed in a boating accident on March 22 that also seriously injures Bob Ojeda.
* Sparky Anderson becomes the seventh manager to win 2,000 games.
* Dave Winfield (right) collects his 3,000th career hit, at the Metrodome on Sept. 16.
Jose Canseco drives in his 750th run in his first 1,000 games, becoming the first player to accomplish this feat since Ted Williams.
4 * Ken Griffey homers in eight consecutive games.
* Nolan Ryan and George Brett retire. * A bomb explosion at New York's World Trade Center on Feb. 26 kills six and starts a fire that sends black smoke through the 110-story twin towers, injuring hundreds and forcing 100,000 to evacuate.
* Tomahawk cruise missiles from U.S. Navy ships hit Iraqi intelligence headquarters on June 26 after revelations of an Iraqi-engineered plot to assassinate former President George Bush.
* Sears Roebuck and Co. announces Jan 26 that it will discontinue its 97-year-old merchandise catalog.
* The Branch Davidian fundamentalist religious cult, led by David Koresh, sets fire to its combine in Waco, Texas, killing more than 80 people.