Behind scenes, Ripken nights were memorable, too


Late into Wednesday night, into the early hours of yesterday morning, Cal Ripken and the emotion of Streak Week and Games No. 2,130 and 2,131 were still the subjects of choice at Camden Yards and beyond.

A taste of what was being done and said:


Ripken talked about why he pulled off his jersey during the fifth-inning celebration, and gave it to his wife. "I was thinking about it a while ago," he said. "I'm not a collector by any means, but I just wanted to give that to someone who would get something out of it and I couldn't think of anyone better than my kids."


Before Wednesday night's game, approximately three dozen TV camera people and photographers waited for Ripken to appear for batting practice. And they waited. And they waited.

But Ripken was with assistant GM and part-time hitting instructor Frank Robinson and catcher Chris Hoiles, in the indoor batting cage. Robinson went to put a ball on a tee for Ripken, but Hoiles stopped him.

"Hey, I put the balls on the tee for him last night," Hoiles said. Robinson, familiar with the superstitions of ballplayers, understood immediately: Ripken had homered the night before.

They all laughed, but Hoiles did place the balls on the tee for Ripken -- who homered again, in the fourth inning.


Orioles starting pitcher Mike Mussina planned to take one of the special-issue balls with him off the mound in the first inning. But when he got the final out with a strikeout, Mussina forgot to pick up the ball that Hoiles rolled toward the mound.

However, Jeff Huson reached down and picked up the ball as he made his way from third to the dugout, where he asked Mussina if he wanted the souvenir. Sure, Mussina said, and when the second inning ended with a strikeout, Huson picked up that ball, as well, keeping it for himself.


At least one baby in Baltimore has been named in honor of Ripken.

Cali Drouillard was born moments after Tuesday night's game in which Ripken tied Lou Gehrig's 2,130 consecutive-game record.

Kimberly Drouillard says the name was her husband Don's idea.

"He's a big fan of the Orioles and he likes Cal Ripken a lot," she said yesterday. "Her name was supposed to be Alexia."

Cali was born at 7:38 p.m. at Franklin Square Hospital Center and weighed exactly 8 pounds, another sign perhaps that she was meant to be named after No. 8 Ripken.


Somebody asked Cal Ripken Sr. if he felt emotional Wednesday night, when a city honored his son, when his son honored baseball, when his son honored his father.

"Emotional?" Ripken Sr. said. "I don't get emotional. I'm very proud the way Cal Jr. has handled the whole situation."


Orioles pitcher Ben McDonald acknowledged that he cried watching the emotional fifth inning Wednesday night. "I'm not ashamed to admit it, either," he said. "I was just kind of caught up in what was going on. I don't think I was the only one to shed a tear."


And this from former Hiroshima Toyo Carp catcher Sachio Kinugasa, who set a consecutive-game record of 2,215 from 1970 to 1987:

"I congratulate him from the bottom of my heart, and I sincerely wish that he'll keep it up and break my record," Kinugasa said in Japan.

"I think Ripken is the harder worker," Kinugasa said. For one thing, he noted, Japan's season is only 130 games long, compared with the usual 162 played each season in the U.S. major leagues.


Other players remarked at how happy Ripken appeared following consecutive game No. 2,130, the night he tied the record -- perhaps because all of the pressure was off him. At that point, having played through Tuesday's game without injury, he was basically assured of breaking the record.

Ripken said after Wednesday's game, "I guess I was having more fun today. Yesterday there was a certain sense of relief that we were getting through all of this. I think that carried over to today. It seemed like today was even more relaxing than before."


Orioles first base coach Al Bumbry, on his first impressions of Ripken years ago:

"When I first saw him play, I thought that he would be a good ballplayer. The primary reason was because of his father, and because in this game or in football or basketball or in any professional sport, I always felt that if you got the fundamentals, everything else would fall into place.

"He could field the ball, he could catch the ball and he had an outstanding arm. From the fundamentals standpoint, everything was there."


Third baseman Huson, who defended Ripken from pseudo-passes thrown by first baseman Rafael Palmeiro as they ran out onto the field before innings, had joked that he would play a prevent defense against Ripken. Translated: Huson would let Ripken catch the ball, so as not to physically endanger him and prevent him from breaking Gehrig's record.

But after the record became Ripken's Wednesday night, Huson defended aggressively and batted down a ball. "No more," Huson said afterward, laughing.


On Aug. 27, reliever Jesse Orosco expressed the hope, as many of his teammates had, of participating in Game No. 2,131. "Maybe," he said, smiling, "I'll even get the save, and then I can give him the game ball."

He was joking; Orosco's last save had come in 1993. In several situations this year, Orioles manager Phil Regan had lifted him with the ninth inning in progress, bringing in right-hander Doug Jones to finish out the games.

But after Orosco retired the first two hitters in the ninth Wednesday night, Regan stuck with him, and Orosco earned the save. (It's not known whether he's had a chance to present Ripken with the game ball.)

The loudest boos on the otherwise euphoric night were aimed at Regan, for pulling Mussina with two outs in the eighth inning. To that point, however, Mussina had thrown 140 pitches, a season high.


Ripken was asked in the post-game news conference to compare the difficulty of his feat, in his time, to the feat of Gehrig, in his time.

"I have never done that," he said. "I only have the perspective of what I do. It could have been more grueling for Lou for reasons we don't know. And like I've said, this wasn't about trying to be Lou Gehrig. It's just about me going out there ready to play."

Game No. 2,132 is tonight, against the Cleveland Indians. After 2,131, it's all gravy.


Opponent: Cleveland Indians

Site: Jacobs Field, Cleveland

Time: 8:05 p.m.

TV/Radio: Ch. 11/WBAL (1090 AM)

Starters: Orioles' Kevin Brown (7-8, 3.92) vs. Indians' Orel Hershiser (12-6, 4.17)

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