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2130 // Ripken ties 1 on, Next: The record

All he has ever wanted to do was play baseball.

Through the aches and pains, the tiredness, the criticism, the pressure and the press conferences, through everything else his streak has caused him to bear, Cal Ripken Jr. just wanted to play the games.

And on the night he tied Lou Gehrig's record by playing in his 2,130th consecutive game, Ripken played a game worthy of history.

He homered, singled twice, scored two runs and turned a handful of smooth defensive plays _ recording, fittingly, the first and last outs _ as his Baltimore Orioles drubbed California 8-0. Ripken is scheduled to break the record tonight against the Angels.

"I'm not in the business of script-writing," Ripken said, "but if I were this would have been pretty good."

In essence, Ripken tied the record when he stepped on the field at Camden Yards. In reality, he did it at 9:18 p.m., when rule 4.10(c) was flashed on the scoreboard, explaining that 4{ innings were complete and the game was now official. The large banners on the B&O warehouse overlooking rightfield were changed from 2,129 to 2,130. Balloons and streamers went up and cheers from the sellout crowd of 46,804thundered down. Images of Ripken and Gehrig appeared together on the scoreboard.

The ovation went on and on, extending the time between innings to 5 minutes, 20 seconds. And the fans weren't the only ones cheering. The stadium workers, the Orioles, the Angels and even the umpires joined in.

Ripken came out of the dugout three times to acknowledge the crowd.

"It was a very powerful moment," Ripken said. "In some ways, I wish everyone had a chance to experience that kind of moment. It was terrific."

There was, of course, no surprise that Ripken tied the record Tuesday. He did merely what he has done every day for more than 13 years. But that didn't stop his colleagues from marveling at what he has accomplished.

"It's awesome. Unbelievable. Incredible," said Angels infielder Spike Owen, who started his pro career the same year Ripken began his streak. "Anything you could think of doesn't really describe someone going out and playing 2,130 games without missing a day.

"They say all records are made to be broken, but I can't see this being done again."

Former Orioles manager Earl Weaver called it "better than winning the state lottery."

"It's just something fantastic, something that I don't think any generation will ever see again," he said.

And Baltimore pitcher Mike Mussina, the starter for tonight's record-breaking game, said the players all realize they are part of something special.

"I think we believe it's one of the major, if not the most impressive athletic achievements in our lifetime," Mussina said. "A lot of records are not going to be broken. But whoever thought somebody would go out and play every day for 14 straight years? It just doesn't happen anymore. It just doesn't happen. Especially for a shortstop."

Since the streak he says he never sought began on May 30, 1982, Ripken has been transformed into a legend, a monument to durability and consistency, a testimony to hard work and quality performances.

But on Tuesday night, he may have accomplished one of his greatest feats. At a time when the scars from last year's players strike are still unhealed, Ripken managed to get the country excited about baseball.

"The best thing about this," said umpire Larry Barnett, who will work home plate tonight, "is that nobody is talking about lawyers or federal judges, just baseball. Isn't that great? We've got Cal Ripken to thank for it."

The streak, Mussina said, "represents everything that is good about baseball. I think he represents everything that is good about baseball."

Ripken has always tried to downplay the streak, but admitted it was getting to him. "I've been feeling very achy over the last week or so," he said. "I attribute that to a little bit of nervousness. I have not been able to sleep very well. It's like a switch is on and I can't wind down. I have not been eating well."

He said he was eager to get to today, because the record pursuit will be over. "I'm looking forward to it, I'm looking forward to the end," he said.

But he was looking ahead for another reason. "I have a big festivity planned," he said. "It's my daughter's first day of school and I plan to get up and take her."

Ripken reached on an infield single in the first inning; flied out in the second; singled to left in the fourth; homered in the sixth off California rookie Mark Holzemer, who was 12 years old when Ripken's streak began; and flied out in the eighth.

"It was nice to win the game, it was nice to play the game," Ripken said. "I thoroughly enjoyed the game."

Consecutive game streaks

2,130 _ Lou Gehrig

2,130 _ x-Cal Ripken

1,307 _ Everett Scott

1,207 _ Steve Garvey

1,117 _ Billy Williams

1,103 _ Joe Sewell

895 _ Stan Musial

829 _ Eddie Yost

822 _ Gus Suhr

798 _ Nellie Fox

x-active streak

Other consecutive-game records

On Tuesday, Cal Ripken tied Lou Gehrig's record of playing in 2,130 consecutive games. Here are the records in three other major sports:

Sport Player Teams Years Games

NFL Jim Marshall Clev, Minn 1960-79 282

NBA Randy Smith Buff., S.D., Clev., N.Y. 1972-83 906

NHL Doug Jarvis Mont., Wash., Hart. 1975-87 964