BALTIMORE -- MVP. World Series winner. Hall of Famer. Cal Ripken Jr. is famous for many things, though above all, it's the streak. But what if it never happened? Had things gone a bit differently more than 30 years ago, Ripken may never have broken Lou Gehrig's famous consecutive games played streak.
In 1978 the Orioles drafted Ripken in the second round, and scouts that watched him viewed Baltimore's Ironman as either a pitcher or short stop. As he entered the organization, Ripken was given the choice of which path to pursue.
"Pitching was fun," Ripken recounted Tuesday at Camden Yards. "But I wanted to play every day."
Ripken explained that Orioles scouts told him he had a better chance of breaking in as a position player, and if it didn't work out, then he could try being a pitcher.
"Normally it didn't work the other way," Ripken said. "When that was presented to me it became pretty easy."
The Orioles great talked to the media minutes before Baltimore took on the Rays on Tuesday night when the team is celebrating the 20th anniversary of 2,131. The iconic banners hung from the Eutaw Street warehouse, recognizing Ripken's greatness and grit to play every day for 16 seasons.
It was funny to hear that had Ripken, or Orioles brass, decided on a different fate, the streak might never have been. Instead, Ripken became one of MLB's best ambassadors, a man that many suggest "saved" baseball after the strike ridden season of 1994.
Despite all his accomplishments, Ripken recognizes he might be best remembered for the streak. He works now with kids that sometimes aren't sure about his background.
"Sometimes they ask me if I used to play," he said with a smile. "Sometimes I have to get them to Google me."
Ripken is absolutely the most famous Orioles player of the Camden Yards era, and his work with youth baseball around the country probably transcends even if his great play for so many years. The streak, however, is at the top of the list of his accomplishments, simply for the incredible longevity. Prior to Ripken breaking the record, Gehrig held it for 56 years.
For Cal it was easy. He explained that he was taught at a young age from his father, and then as a pro from players like Eddie Murray, to love the game and come to the ballpark ready to play.
"I wanted to play every day."
DON'T MISS SUNDAY NIGHT SEPTEMBER 6TH: SPECIAL CAL RIPKEN EPISODE OF THE BASEBALL SHOW FEATURING A RETROSPECTIVE INTERVIEW WITH CAL AND JOE ORSULAK & ROB CARLIN. 6:30 p.m.!