"I hate to be selfish, but that was my first major-league win," said Jim Gott, who had the last ball used in that game, before giving it to Ripken last night. "And I beat Jim Palmer -- what a big deal that was for me."
"In retrospect, what he [Ripken] has been able to accomplish is incredible. Cal and I are the only active players from that game -- well, in my case, sort of active."
Gott, now with the Pittsburgh Pirates, is currently on the disabled list and recently underwent shoulder surgery that could end his career. He combined with Roy Lee Jackson, who pitched the last three innings, for a one-hitter -- a fifth-inning bloop single by Rick Dempsey -- in Game 1 of The Streak.
"I remember that Cal was 0-for-1, with a walk against me," said Gott, who will be in attendance tonight when Ripken is scheduled to break Lou Gehrig's record of 2,130 consecutive games. "It really is an incredible accomplishment."
The man who was behind the plate in the game that started it all is part of the umpiring crew that worked the Orioles' series with Seattle over the weekend. "Really? That's amazing, I had no idea," said Vic Voltaggio, who also called balls and strikes for Game No. 2,127 this past Saturday vs. Seattle.
"That's something I wouldn't even have given a second thought to. But it's nice to know, even if only for personal gratification," Voltaggio said. "This is something we'll never see again -- and, even with the attention he's received, I don't think people really understand the magnitude of this.
pTC "As screwed up as baseball is right now, we needed something like this," he added. "I remember that game now, and it's nice to have been a part of it."
Like Voltaggio, Palmer didn't remember the game -- until he heard some of the details. "Did I pitch that game?" said Palmer, who is noted for almost total recall. "I can't remember that far back."
Told that he had allowed two runs in the first inning and four in the ninth, Palmer said: "I was just hanging around trying to get a win. If we had scored four or five runs, I would've been out of there."
While his memory was fuzzy about game particulars, Palmer did have a lasting recollection of Gott from two days earlier. "I remember, now, that it had been raining and I was running in the outfield and saw Gott throwing in the bullpen," said the Hall of Famer.
"I only saw him throw one pitch -- a nasty slider down and away on the black of the plate. I thought to myself, 'Uh-oh, that doesn't look too good.'
"Obviously, he must've gone out and pitched like that two days )) later," said Palmer.
No one, of course, had a clue that the game would be the start of something this big. Especially a young (Gott was 24 at the time) right-handed pitcher for Toronto.
Jim Gott brought a very special game ball with him to Camden Yards. Little did he know, 2,129 games ago, that the ball from his first major-league win would be Hall of Fame material.