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The streak was always among us


Around game No. 1,250, New York sportswriter Dan Daniel, in a story that is probably more fable than fact, informed Lou Gehrig of his consecutive-games streak.

There is no such Christopher Columbus when it comes to Cal Ripken's streak.

Nobody discovered the streak. It sort of sneaked up on everybody -- writers, broadcasters, fans, even Ripken's former teammates -- evolving into the media-crazed event that it is today.

"I didn't give it any thought at all until three years ago," said Ripken's former teammate and HTS broadcaster, John Lowenstein.

If there is a historian of the streak, it is Jon Miller, the radio voice of the Orioles since 1983. That was Ripken's first full season of playing in every game and in every inning of every game.

At the end of September during that season, in articles five days apart in The Sun and The Evening Sun, two reporters wrote stories about Ripken's nascent games streak.

And that's when Ripken started defending it.

"If I were really tired or physically hurting, I might consider [taking a day off]. But I'm not," Ripken said in a Sept. 23 Sun article. "I'm swinging the bat really well and playing well.

The way things have gone lately, I don't think I need the rest."

Gehrig's name wasn't mentioned in either story.

The focus, through 1985, stayed "not so much on the consecutive-games streak," said Miller, but on the innings streak, as Ripken and Eddie Murray played in every inning of the 1984 season. "That's what we concentrated on."

Then came Ripken's injury that shifted the attention back to the games streak. Three games into the 1985 season, he twisted his ankle taking a pickoff throw at second base.

The next day, May 11, The Sun ran a box detailing "Ripken's Streak." His games streak stood at 444, tied with Murray for second place on the Orioles' all-time list and 19 behind Brooks Robinson's club record.

Gehrig wasn't even on the radar screen.

A scheduled exhibition at the Naval Academy instead of a regular-season game preserved both streaks. Then the hoopla began.

"Once he passed Brooks, we started making a big deal out of it because he set a club record," said former Orioles public relations director Rick Vaughn.

The innings streak, believed to be the longest in history, ended in 1987 at 8,243, at the request of his father and manager, Cal Ripken Sr.

That left the games streak. The anticipation heightened when Ripken passed Everett Scott's second-place mark of 1,307 in 1990. Vaughn held a celebration for Ripken at Memorial Stadium.

"It was very, very minor compared to what's going on now," Vaughn said.

The odds of passing Gehrig remained low. Until now.

"A couple of years ago, people thought this thing could be pulled off," Lowenstein said. "It wasn't exactly an earth-shattering event, and it won't be until Wednesday."

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