BALTIMORE | On the 15th anniversary of the day Cal Ripken Jr. tied Lou Gehrig's major league mark for consecutive games played, the Iron Man returned to Camden Yards to celebrate the occasion.
Ripken threw out the ceremonial first pitch before the Baltimore Orioles faced the Tampa Bay Rays on Sunday. He received a standing ovation as he fired a strike to backup catcher Jake Fox.
Had the event been held Monday, Ripken might have felt obligated to take a lap around the field — just as he did when he broke the seemingly unreachable record by playing in his 2,131st successive game.
Perhaps it's fortunate the Orioles left town Sunday, because the 50-year-old Ripken wanted no part in duplicating that memorable sweep around the stadium.
"Nah, you can't recreate that moment that happened," he said. "I was embarrassed to take that lap that night. I'd be extra embarrassed to it even now."
Ripken played in 2,632 straight games before ending the streak by willingly sitting out Baltimore's final home contest of the 1998 season. There are many records in baseball that will ultimately be surpassed, but it's unlikely that will be one of them.
"It's remarkable. That won't be broken. No one will even get close," Orioles manager Buck Showalter said. "It's a fascinating streak. It stands for so many things — more than just a number."
An unreachable number? Ripken isn't so sure.
"I guess when you look at it in its totality, a lot of right things have to happen. You have to be pretty injury free, stubborn," Ripken said. "If you add it up and you say it takes 16 years to get that many games, it seems far fetched, it seems it couldn't be done.
"But I sit inside my own shoes and say that if I can do it, somebody else can. Somebody else can come along with grit and determination and go out and play every day."
Showalter recalled how dedicated Ripken was to the game, and how the Hall of Fame infielder battled through injuries to make sure his name was in the lineup every day.
"It's surprising that anybody was able to do it, but it doesn't surprise me that Cal was the guy," Showalter said. "Don't think he didn't play through some stuff that other people wouldn't have tried to play through, and I don't think it was because he had the streak going. It was, 'I've got to play through this because the Baltimore Orioles need a guy they can count on."
When the game against the Anaheim Angels became official, huge 10-foot numbers on the warehouse beyond the right-field wall dropped down to read 2130. The next day, it was 2131.
"It was record that everyone in baseball celebrated," recalled Showalter, who was then manager of the Yankees.
Baltimore's opponent during the series was the Anaheim Angels, whose first base coach was Joe Maddon, now manager of the Rays.
"He had a great series, hit a home run every night," Maddon said. "The place was absolutely electric. The bulbs were flashing. Everytime he did something there were bulbs flashing everywhere.
"The thing I always admired about him — this is my interpretation of watching him — was that he was always playing a game. That's why he was able to do this."