Physical, emotional pain take their toll

Sun Staff

Eighteenth of a series recounting Cal Ripken's 20 full major-league seasons.

No matter what else Cal Ripken did in 1999, the season forever would be remembered for his first two trips to the disabled list. A body that allowed him to continue playing through an assortment of aches and games finally gave in to time.

Never before had Ripken gone where so many others spent at least part of their seasons. From the start of his record consecutive-game streak, which began on May 30, 1982, players had made 5,045 trips to the disabled list before Ripken joined them.

He appeared in only 86 games but established career highs in average (.340) and slugging percentage (.584). He batted .352 between trips to the DL. It wasn't what Ripken would consider a fair tradeoff.

Twenty-two games were lost when Ripken went on the DL for the first time April 20, failing to return until May 13. He missed 28 more beginning Aug. 3, and the final 13 of the season after undergoing surgery at University Hospitals of Cleveland on Sept. 23 to decompress nerve root irritation in his back. The procedure was performed by Dr. Henry Bohlman, a name that remained attached to Ripken the next season when the back flared up again.

No pain could compare to what Ripken experienced in spring training when his father died of lung cancer. Each day brought another challenge to focus on baseball and what remained of his years in a sport he grew to love and appreciate through Cal Sr. A surgical knife couldn't cut him any deeper.

How remarkable, then, that even amid so much adversity, even with Ripken had his lowest depths personally and professionally, he still could reach a few more milestones.

On Sept. 2, he became the 29th player in major-league history to hit 400 home runs by connecting off Tampa Bay's Rolando Arrojo in his second game after returning from the DL.

Ripken earlier had set club records for hits and runs (five) in a game, and tied the mark for total bases (13) in Atlanta by going 6-for-6 with a double, two homers and six RBIs. The game happened to be televised nationally by ESPN, adding to the Ripken legend.

He also passed Brooks Robinson as the Orioles' all-time leader in at-bats during a July 8 game against Toronto, and finished the season ranked 11th in baseball history.

Not all records are meant to be savored, however. Ripken hit into his 324th career double play on Sept. 9, passing Carl Yastrzemski for most ever in the American League.

A tradition continued when Ripken was among the starters at the All-Star Game in Boston, matching Rod Carew for most elections with 15.

And after the season, Ripken was chosen to Major League Baseball's All-Century team, joining Ernie Banks as the only shortstops.


Year G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI Avg.

1999 86 332 51 113 27 0 18 57 .340

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