- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 24, 2002

SAN FRANCISCO Baseball's most memorable moment belongs to the man whose only intention was simply to show up for work every day.

Cal Ripken's 2,131st consecutive game was revealed yesterday as the most memorable moment in baseball history, as voted by more than 1.1 million fans during the season.

Ripken's moment received 282,821 votes, beating out Hank Aaron's 715th home run (275,451), Jackie Robinson's rookie season (251,564), Mark McGwire's 62nd homer (242,279) and Lou Gehrig's farewell speech (237,131).

"I know it's a popular vote, and I know it's probably more of a modern vote," said Ripken, who broke Gehrig's consecutive games streak on Sept. 6,1995, at Camden Yards. "I think it's cool the way baseball has celebrated it that way. And to come back and be voted most popular, it just blows me away."

The retired Baltimore Orioles star was honored before Game 4 of the World Series last night, appearing on field at Pac Bell Park along with four other participants from the Top 10 moments.

Earlier, Ripken expressed some surprise at his moment beating out the others, saying Aaron's stands out in his mind. But he also said he understands the significance of his record-breaking night in the game's history.

"The way it unfolded, the way it became a celebration of baseball at a time after the work stoppage, it seemed like everyone was hungry to hold onto something about baseball," Ripken said. "My particular streak, and at that time of year, it kind of came together nicely. The event unfolded in a way that you couldn't choreograph. A lot of people have said how significant and how memorable my moment was, how it hit them in different ways."

Ripken also has never considered "2,131" his personal most memorable moment. His only World Series title (in 1983, his second season with the Orioles) has always taken precedence over The Streak.

"I caught the last out of the World Series," he said. "It put an exclamation point on the season. It was the most gratifying and satisfying feeling that I've had."

Ripken received a warm ovation from the crowd at Pac Bell upon being introduced last night and also threw out the ceremonial first pitch to his son, Ryan. But the largest cheer came for Pete Rose, whose record-setting 4,192nd hit in 1985 was voted memorable moment No.6 by the fans.

Rose, who was banned from baseball in 1989 for gambling, was greeted by a loud, long roar from the crowd upon walking onto the field last night, evoking memories of his last appearance at a major league event: the Team of the Century ceremony during the 1999 World Series.

As Rose departed, the crowd began chanting "Hall of Fame! Hall of Fame!" for the man who is not allowed in Cooperstown.

Cal for O's GM?

With Orioles vice president of baseball operations Syd Thrift expected to retire or take another position in the club's front office, Ripken's name has surfaced as a possible replacement.

Since retiring last year, the Iron Man has expressed a desire to return someday to a major league club, either in a managerial or front-office capacity. Speaking at a Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation event Sunday, Ripken was asked if he would consider working for the Orioles. He replied that he would and that he would look to them before any other clubs.

Yesterday Ripken was hesitant to speak about the subject, though he did hint that a decision may not be far away.

"If there's an opportunity to shape an organization, then I'd certainly be interested," he said. "And it's kind of interesting lately, it's kind of grown a little more true, and I'm starting to get more specific questions. I think there might be a time and a place, I guess once we get back to Baltimore. I think my obligation right now is more to the memorable moments program. I kind of want to keep my comments to that."

Erstad's memorable month

With Barry Bonds garnering all the attention for his record-setting power displays this postseason, it's been easy to overlook Darin Erstad's remarkable performance.

Entering last night's game, the Angels had played 12 postseason games. Erstad had hit safely in all 12 of them, tying Derek Jeter for the longest hitting streak in a single postseason.

Anaheim's center fielder was batting a combined .386 in the playoffs (.375 in the World Series) with 12 runs scored. His 22 hits were three shy of Marquis Grissom's postseason record, set in 1997.

"To be honest with you, I don't feel like I'm locked in," Erstad said. "Every day I have to try and find my swing. I'm a perfectionist, so I'm never going to say I'm totally 'locked in.' Yeah, but I've been pretty inconsistent this year. I've had some good times but then I've had some really bad times. Fortunately, I'm getting a few hits to fall now."

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