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The cheers still are resounding, and rightly so 2,131: RIPKEN PASSES GEHRIG


Gasp! That about covers it. And I stand corrected. There is something beyond the perfection of Tuesday night's Game No. 2,130 at Camden Yards. Henceforth, Game No. 2,131 last night will be remembered as perfection-plus.

More than 20 minutes the mid-game tribute to Cal Ripken lasted and not a second of it was not totally deserved. After all, only another ballgame was waiting and this, gang, was for the ages.

Oh, and Cal hit another home run as the Orioles defeated the California Angels, 4-2. You were expecting maybe a broken-bat single? That's three games in a row he's gone deep when the pressure has been enough to make simply standing up a feat. Even Bernard Malamud didn't write such outrageous drama into his epic, "The Natural."

The 60,000 to 70,000 people in and around the ballpark, including President Clinton and Vice President Gore, are now bonded by a happening that takes its place very high on the list of unforgettable events in Baltimore history.

The number banner 2131 should remain on the warehouse from now until the final figure of "The Streak" is determined. That number then should be permanently inscribed on the building. It's not likely anyone will not know the significance.

If Cal is looking for new frontiers to conquer, there's an "unattainable" goal or record he might set his sights on since it is held by his boyhood idol, Brooks Robinson: Grounded into most triple plays, career -- 4. It's one the shortstop certainly wouldn't want to surpass if he ever slowed down enough to equal it.

Cal's style and grace under the pressure of the never-ending adulation recalls the last night of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar's farewell tour season in the NBA. The last city visited was Seattle and, after the Sonics and fans there had come up with a nice boat, Kareem stepped up to the microphone and started, "Boy, is this getting old."

* Changing the subject, the supreme commander Paul Tagliabue on the essence of football: "The rituals of the game, from youth leagues and high school to college and the NFL, remind us that football holds a special place in our society. More than a game, it is, as some have called it, 'America's Passion.' " It's easy to figure out who wasn't at the Yards last night.

* On this date in 1911, rookie Grover Cleveland Alexander (played by Ronald Reagan in the movies) outpitched 45-year-old Cy Young in a 1-0 thriller in Cy's last game. And will Young's unapproachable record of 511 career victories be the next to tumble? That's only 25-plus wins per season for 20 years.

* An item for Mr. Ripley: It was on April 2 that the baseball owners accepted the back-to-work offer of the players and baseball resumed about three weeks later with its 144-game schedule. Since then, more than five months, absolutely nothing has happened toward settling the issues that led to the strike in the first place.

* New York writers and sportscasters, in town en masse for "2130-2131" were unanimous in their feeling that if Cal Ripken played in New York, "There would be no record." Sure, things are different in the Big Apple from the days when Lou Gehrig was iron-horsing, but they don't know this guy Ripken.

* Words to live by from an all-time NFL great Slingin' Sammy Baugh on the old TV show "The Way It Was," which runs on Classic Sports Network: "To prove yourself as a good quarterback, you should have to call [the plays of] the game." Unfortunately, modern-day QBs haven't called the plays since they got a football game for Christmas at age 6.

* The Mets have been so rampantly successful the last several years that they want a $300 million dome with natural grass and a retractable roof on the site of the present Shea Stadium, built in 1964 (not 1924). Nothing cheap about these guys, right? Or maybe they are unaware the city and state are so poor they can't afford separate names. New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani has to act receptive as the Mets are threatening to move out onto Long Island near Belmont Park and the Yankees are threatening to cut out for the New Jersey Meadowlands.

* By the way, is Big Jake's Place, the real name of Oriole Park, starting to show signs of wear and tear?

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