- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 3, 2001

BALTIMORE — I think it is a safe bet that after Saturday, nobody will ever be wearing No. 8 again for the Baltimore Orioles.
That is, unless Cal Ripken winds up running the baseball operation for a Washington franchise. Then you'll see Peter Angelos banish it, not retire it.
No matter what discomforts the future may hold for the Orioles and their icon, though, it is likely that No. 8 will be retired, to join the other numbers that are commemorated with large, silver replicas in Babe Ruth plaza, just outside Camden Yards Earl Weaver (4), Brooks Robinson (5), Frank Robinson (20), Jim Palmer (22) and Eddie Murray (33).
It could have easily been No. 7 that Ripken wore on his back for 21 seasons in Baltimore. He would have preferred it, since it was his father's number when he was managing in the minor leagues when Cal Jr. was growing up.
But there was one problem it was already taken, by shortstop Mark Belanger. And when Belanger left the Orioles after the 1981 season Ripken's first in an Oriole uniform there was another Ripken who had dibs on the number, anyway Cal Sr., who wanted it, too, because, after all, it was his number.
So when Ripken arrived at his first spring training in 1981, No. 8 was waiting for him.
Now, like so much about Cal Ripken's career, that is perfect symmetry. The father is No. 7, the son is No. 8.
Except it wasn't exactly scripted that way, according to Orioles clubhouse man Jimmy Tyler, who gave Ripken the number when he arrived at spring training.
"I think it was the last week before we were getting ready to go to spring training, and the 8 was available, so we gave him the 8," Tyler said.
Ripken had no particular love for 8. In his minor league career, he had worn 16, 7 (obviously, because of his father), 12 and 5 (Brooks' number). Any one of those would have had more connection than No. 8.
"Ten years later, he said to me, 'I think I'll change my number to another number,' " Tyler said. "I said, 'What number do you want?' He just looked at me and smiled, and that was the end of that. He kept the number eight."
At the time he got the number Ripken was just happy it wasn't 66 or 99 or some other high number that usually indicates that you are nothing more than window dressing. "I remember the big numbers that most people got when they first came to spring training, which was usually an indication they had no chance to making the club," he said. "I didn't really have a chance to make the club on my first camp in. That was pretty obvious, unless somebody got hurt or something happened. But I had a single digit uniform number, and when I got called back up in August of that year, the eight was there, so I figured that was my number."
Now that number will likely take its place in Orioles history. But consider this: It's not just Ripken's number that will be eventually retired. It is everyone who ever wore No. 8 for the Orioles before him.
It's not a list of immortals, believe me: Dick Kryhoski wore it first in 1954, and others that followed included Ray Murray (1954), Kal Segrist (1955), Jim Pyburn (1955-57), Buddy Peterson (1957), Foster Castlemen (1958), Tim Nordbrook (1975-76) and Dave Skaggs, who was the last Oriole to wear No. 8 (1977-80) before Ripken got it.
There have been some better known players to have worn No. 8, such as Gene Stephens, Bobby Avila. Jerry Adair wore it as well, but just for one season, 1959. Besides Ripken, the Oriole to wear No. 8 the longest was catcher Andy Etchebarren, who had the number in 1962 and again from 1965 to 1972.
But the one name that sticks out among all the other Orioles who wore No. 8 is one who is probably the very antithesis of the Ripken standard of excellence.
Marv Throneberry, come on down!
Yes, Marvelous Marv, who would go on to become the symbol of the worst team in baseball history the 1962 New York Mets wore No. 8 for the Orioles during his brief stint here in 1961 and 1962. The stories of Throneberry's mishaps are legend, such as when he was called out after hitting a triple for not touching first base. When Mets manager Casey Stengel went out to argue the call, the umpire told Casey that Marv had missed second as well.
A connection between Marvelous Marv and the Iron Man. The baseball gods have a pretty good sense of humor. If Marv were alive today (he passed away in 1994), he might have called on his old Miller Lite commercial days and said, "I still don't know why I was wearing that number."
When the day comes, then, for No. 8 to take its place among the Oriole greats, all of those men who wore it before can tell their grandchildren that their number has been retired.
It will be a fitting tribute to Marv Throneberry.

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