In the original plan for 2020, the Orioles would have played ten games by now and we’d be sitting down tonight to watch their 11th, a road game against the Yankees. The spread of coronavirus has meant things have gone differently and we’ve had to get scraps of retro O’s baseball here and there where we can.
On Tuesday night, ESPN is going to re-air a classic Orioles game, specifically when Cal broke Lou Gehrig’s consecutive games played streak. The date was September 6, 1995, and if you’re old enough, I’m sure you remember it.
For me, 7th grade had only just started and my Algebra teacher had rubbed it in the previous day that she had tickets to 2,130. I did not know anyone who was going to get to go to 2,131. Everyone was talking about it, though. When I got home from school that day, my mom told me that she called to try to win tickets on WQSR, who was giving away a pair to, naturally, the 2131st caller. Mom was caller #2,000, which they put her on air long enough to tell her.
No tickets, though, so we all had to watch on TV. About the game I don’t remember a whole lot beyond that it was the first time that I remember in my life where I had the sense as it was happening that I was watching something special. It’s not a feeling I’ve had terribly often, and as a Baltimore sports fan even less so. The idea that the president was going to be there - as an 11-year-old, this was mind-blowing.
The victory lap when the game went official - I still get goosebumps thinking about it. It’s funny what stands out in your memory. The absolute number one thing that I remember is that while Cal was taking his lap, I think as he was about to head back down the third base line, he stopped to pick up a hat that someone had thrown onto the field and just chucked it back into the stands.
Here’s the starting lineup from that night:
- Brady Anderson - CF
- Manny Alexander - 2B
- Rafael Palmeiro - 1B
- Bobby Bonilla - RF
- Cal Ripken Jr. - SS
- Harold Baines - DH
- Chris Hoiles - C
- Jeff Huson - 3B
- Mark Smith - LF
Fittingly, Mike Mussina was the starting pitcher, which means there were three Hall of Famers on the field for the Orioles that night - and if the Hall of Fame gatekeepers ever find more forgiveness for PED-connected players, Palmeiro, who belongs in as a 3,000 hit, 500 home run club guy, would make four.