BALTIMORE – Cal Ripken was about 20 minutes away from the first pitch to commemorate the 20th anniversary of breaking the consecutive games streak. But first, he had a confession to make.
The “Iron Man” fell off his bicycle Tuesday afternoon and hurt his right shoulder.
“I don’t know whether I’ll be able to throw out the first pitch,” Ripken said with a chuckle. “I’d like to think [Orioles trainer] Richie Bancells could fix me and I would have played no matter what.”
Ripken warned a press conference full of reporters that he might have to walk halfway to the mound and lightly toss the first pitch.
With his friend and teammate, Orioles vice president of baseball operations, Brady Anderson catching the pitch, Ripken accepted the cheers of the crowd and waved.
Reminders of Sept. 6, 1995 were everywhere. The “2131” banner was back on the warehouse wall as it was two decades ago.
And, Ripken spent the time awaiting his press conference in a VIP room watching a tape of the events and he admitted to getting emotional when watching his late father, Cal, Sr., who died in March 1999.
“In some ways, it feels like was yesterday,” Ripken remembers. “It’s hard to believe that it was 20 years.”
Most people remember Ripken’s lap around the field. Other than Bobby Bonilla and Rafael Palmeiro conspiring to push Ripken out to acknowledge the fans, he said nothing was plan.
“I didn’t know what to do and I didn’t know how to do it. I was trying to do what I thought was right and say ‘thank you,’ as best I could,” Ripken said. “It really made the celebration a much more personal, one-on-one intimate celebration, where I started identifying people’s faces and people’s names.”
J.J. Hardy was a 13-year-old in Arizona watching.
“"I know that I still have the Tucson newspaper from when it happened,” Hardy said. "It's with all my baseball cards. So even back then, I knew it was a big deal. It's pretty cool to see this tonight. I can't believe it was 20 years ago."
At 10, Adam Jones saw the game from San Diego.
“The mental part of it is the remarkable part. There’s days when you do need a break,” Jones said. “For him to do what he did is nothing short of amazing. That’s a record that 100 percent will never be broken.”
There was a time when Jones would joke about breaking Ripken’s record, but after 322 consecutive games, Buck Showalter ended that streak in Sept. 2013.
“Cal’s streak, that could never be touched in today’s game,” Jones said.
Manny Machado, who’s playing in his 132nd straight game is the active leader in consecutive games played.
Showalter was managing the New York Yankees, trying to figure out a way into the newly expanded playoffs.
“I heard some of the grumblings about he was hurting the team by playing every day. Spare me. Go ask his teammates and the other team. Some guys at 80 percent are better than some guys at 100 percent. I know Adam gives me that a lot of times when I ask him how he's doing,” Showalter said.
"I played 140-150 games in a season. I don't know how anybody does it. It takes so much discipline, and it's still something that I still think kind of lives on here with a guy like Adam and a guy like Manny. They talk about it."
Ron Darling, who works with Ripken as an “MLB on TBS” analyst, knew he was a tough competitor.
MORE ORIOLES Cal Ripken, Jr. recounts his record-breaking night
“Every player that played against Cal wanted to be Cal. He was the best at what he did, but with a grace and humility that you don't find in many. Cal saved Major League Baseball when the sport needed him most, by letting every fan know that he was their superstar, just by doing what most people have to do – going to work every day,” Darling said.
The Oriole Park stands on Tuesday were full of people who were at that memorable game and some who were too young to remember it. Ripken enjoyed recounting the lap. The Orioles were out of contention, and halfway through the game against the California Angels, Ripken took his time making his way around the field.
“It didn’t matter to me whether the game started again or not. I was just enjoying that sort of moment,” Ripken said.
He stopped to visit with the Angels on his way home.
When do you get a chance to talk to the other team really when you’re playing a game against them?” Ripken asks.
“It was probably the best human moment I had on the field.”