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Tim Kurkjian's Baseball Fix: Cal Ripken, the birth of The Streak and the toughness it took to keep it going

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Kurkjian reflects on Ripken's consecutive games streak (1:40)

Tim Kurkjian recalls some stories about Cal Ripken Jr. and his father on the anniversary of the beginning of Ripken's consecutive games streak. (1:40)

You love baseball. Tim Kurkjian loves baseball. So while we await its return, every day we'll provide you with a story or two tied to this date in baseball history.

ON THIS DATE IN 1982, Cal Ripken began his consecutive-games streak.

It ended 16 years and 2,632 games later, a streak that demolished the previous record of 2,130 by Lou Gehrig, and probably is the most unbreakable MLB record. It was a streak achieved by an unbelievably competitive person, a man who always wanted to be available to help his team, a remarkably strong man and, after his father, the toughest person I've ever met.

The full "On this date ..." archive

"Cal is an alien,'' teammate Randy Milligan once said.

On Opening Day 1985, Game 444 of The Streak, Ripken rolled his left ankle when his spikes caught on the second-base bag on a pickoff play. He heard a pop, but, naturally, he stayed in the game. His ankle was so badly bruised it was black and blue all around. On orders from the team, he went to the hospital after the game. The doctor gave him crutches, and told him to stay on them for two weeks. Ripken got to his car, threw the crutches away, treated the ankle all night and next day (a day off; otherwise, he said, he would not have been able to play). But a day later, he played.

How?

"I just taped it up real tight, it was fine,'' Ripken said.

Ripken's pain tolerance was remarkable. Among the many games (indoor hockey; sockball, which was baseball with a taped-up sock) he played in the Orioles' clubhouse was a game that Ripken invented, and, of course, he was the champion of: which player could withstand the most pain, and which was the hardest to bruise.

"Ten minutes before the start of a game, Rip threw me down and stuck a knuckle in my ribs,'' pitcher Ben McDonald said. "Then a couple of guys jumped him, and dug their knuckles in his ribs. We had him pinned down. He was yelling, 'No! No!' But he wouldn't give up. He would rather die. The next day, we compared ribs. I had three big bruises; he had one tiny red spot.''

McDonald laughed.

"I can't wait until The Streak is over,'' McDonald said in 1995. "A bunch of us are going to get him down and pummel him. But we still won't be able to hurt him. And he will not bruise.''

The toughness came from Ripken's father, Cal Sr. He was once hit in the face by a line drive while throwing batting practice at Fenway Park. Orioles trainer Richie Bancells raced to the mound. Rip Sr. was bleeding badly, but he screamed at Bancells, "Get the hell out of here! I haven't finished my round.'' He finished his round of BP, went to the hospital and was back in the third-base coaching box, with stitches in his face, in the third inning.

Ripken Sr. was a great soccer player. He played into his mid-50s against men half his age.

"When I was a kid, he came home from a soccer game with his huge blood blister on his big toe; those are very painful,'' Ripken Jr. said. "He took me down to our workshop in the basement, he took out a power drill, and drilled a hole into his toenail, relieving the pressure. Blood came spurting out. He said, 'Oooooooooh, that feels good!'''

Other baseball notes for May 30

  • In 1894, Bobby Lowe became the first player to hit four home runs in a game. He weighed 150 pounds. He hit all four off Ice Box Chamberlain. The next player to hit four in a game was Gehrig, in 1932.

  • In 1927, Walter Johnson threw his final shutout, No. 110. Different time, different game, obviously, but Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz combined for 76 shutouts.

  • In 1972, Manny Ramirez was born. Forget, for a second, all the trouble he got into. He was a very smart hitter and had great balance and one of the most beautiful swings ever by a right-handed hitter.

  • In 1985, Fernando Salas was born. He is the only active pitcher whose last name is a palindrome. His most recent palindromic pitching line was July 5, 2018: 1-1-1-1-1-1.