In the middle of his 2,031st consecutive game, iron man Cal Ripken went the extra mile.
Prodded by teammates Rafael Palmeiro and Bobby Bonilla, the Orioles' record-setting shortstop took a virtual victory lap around Camden Yards during a tumultuous 22-minute, 15-second ovation last night.
Under a full moon and with President Clinton looking on, the bare-headed Ripken jogged along the warning track, shaking hands with fans, groundskeepers, security personnel and even the California Angels lined up in front of their dugout.
When Ripken finally overtook legendary Lou Gehrig in a chase that spanned 14 seasons, and the Orioles dropped the numbers on the B&O; warehouse wall, the sellout crowd of 46,272 responded with its most heartfelt appreciation.
Ripken had four curtain calls during the lengthy delay. Several times as he stood facing the crowd, he touched his chest over his heart in a show of his appreciation.
No sooner had second baseman Manny Alexander caught a pop-up by Damion Easley to end the Angels' fifth inning than the crowd began warming to the occasion. Music by John Tesh set the tone. As the Orioles' bullpen raced in from the outfield, the grounds crew raced out to replace the bases and security personnel moved into position along the warning track.
As Ripken first acknowledged the cheers, six thunderous volleys of fireworks were set off from behind the center-field fence.
Slowly, Ripken made his way to the box seats behind home plate where his wife, Kelly, and children, Rachel and Ryan, sat. He pulled off his No. 8 jersey and gave it to Kelly. He held Ryan, 2, for a few moments, then spoke briefly to Rachel, 5, who kissed her father on the forehead and quickly wiped her mouth.
The Angels already had taken the field and were going through warm-ups. But second baseman Rex Hudler, a former teammate of Ripken's with the Orioles, applauded into his glove.
Several times during the ovation, Ripken retreated to the dugout bench, only to emerge again, waving his arms and smiling. After approximately 10 minutes, Palmeiro began motioning to Ripken to take a lap around the ballpark.
When Ripken was reluctant, Palmeiro and Bonilla pulled him by the arms from his dugout seat and gently pushed him down the warning track.
He alternately jogged and walked around the track, slapping hands and waving. When he got to the Angels' dugout, he shook each player's hand, starting with a hug from hitting coach Rod Carew. Catcher Jorge Fabregas slipped away from home plate to shake Ripken's hand. And even plate umpire Larry Barnett got into the act, congratulating Ripken.
For the second straight night, Ripken gave the fans a special treat with a home run. Last night, he crushed a 3-0 pitch from Shawn Boskie deep to the seats in left field in the fourth inning to give the Orioles a 3-1 lead.
He also came to bat in the fifth inning with the bases loaded and two outs, but Hudler raced into shallow center field to take away a hit. And in the eighth, he finished his night with a broken-bat single to center field.
One night after the Orioles brought in baseball greats Hank Aaron and Ernie Banks for consecutive game No. 2,130, Hall of Famer Joe DiMaggio watched the record-breaker from Orioles owner Peter Angelos' box.
The appearance of DiMaggio, 80, held special meaning for Angelos.
"At my age, he is my baseball hero," Angelos said. "Joltin' Joe DiMaggio."
Branford Marsalis, playing the saxophone, and Bruce Hornsby, on the piano, performed an instrumental version of the national anthem at the start of the game.
In one other personal touch, Ripken's two children participated in the ceremonial first pitch.