Stars come out as game transformed into event 2,131: RIPKEN PASSES GEHRIG


For once, Bud Selig and Donald Fehr agreed.

Selig said Cal Ripken is about the most wonderful thing to happen to Major League Baseball this season.

For once, Fehr nodded.

"People today -- especially this year -- constantly are saying that things aren't like they used to be," said Selig, baseball's acting commissioner who led a throng of baseball dignitaries attending last night's game.

"They say, 'Nothing is like it used to be.' But here is a player who is like it used to be."

Said Fehr, executive director of the major league players union, and Selig's main adversary during baseball's labor strife last year and this year: "After the strike we went through, Cal reminds people of why we care about baseball to begin with.

"There is such an overflowing sense of good feeling about this really wonderful thing. Everyone can celebrate."

Selig and Fehr were two of the familiar figures from the worlds of baseball, politics and entertainment who made the pilgrimage to Baltimore for Ripken's record-breaking night.

President Clinton and Vice President Al Gore, who watched the game with Orioles owner Peter Angelos, led the celebrity delegation. Others celebrated at a lavish reception at the B&O; Warehouse hosted by Angelos and graced, briefly, by Joe DiMaggio.

Wary of crowds under the best of conditions, DiMaggio was swallowed up by autograph seekers as he entered the fete. Five minutes later, he turned and left.

When they weren't trying to catch glimpses of DiMaggio, guests ate steamed shrimp and admired the novel ice sculptures (Ripken's No. 8 and Ripken-like baseball figures). For a laugh, NBA basketball star David Robinson stood beside diminutive U.S. Senator Barbara Mikulski, whose forehead bumped his knee.

Other notables in the crowd included Virginia Gov. George Allen, U.S. Senator Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and leather-clad Joan Jett, who sang the national anthem before Tuesday's record-tying game.

The party also attracted many of Ripken's former teammates in town for his big week, including Rick Dempsey, Dan Ford and Rich Dauer. All were participants in last night's post-game tribute to Ripken.

Most came to applaud and congratulate Ripken. One man, New York lawyer George Pollack, had the unusual task of being unofficial spokesman for his client, Lou Gehrig.

Pollack, executor to the Gehrig estate, said the publicity surrounding Ripken's streak has given to life to the legend of the former Yankee slugger.

"Lou has been raised up by Cal," Pollack said. "I just talked to a young person who bought a $5,000 ticket. Before this, he didn't know anything about Lou Gehrig."

As for Ripken, he has won a few more fans, if that is possible.

Said Selig: "You know what I remember about Cal Ripken? In 1982, when the Brewers and Orioles were playing down to that great finish. I remember saying to [Brewers executive] Sal Bando, 'Boy that Ripken is some young player, isn't he?'

"And he has played every single game since that 1982 season. Now, that is remarkable."

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