Ripken Breaks Gehrig’s Iron Man Record

Baltimore Orioles third baseman Cal Ripken, Jr., broke Lou Gehrig’s “Iron Man” record for consecutive games played in baseball. When the game became official in the bottom of the fifth inning, fans interrupted the game and applauded his achievement for more than twenty minutes.

Summary of Event

Cal Ripken, Jr., was a Major League Baseball player from 1981 to 2001. He played his entire career in the majors with the Baltimore Orioles and is best known for his streak of 2,632 consecutive games. On September 5, 1995, Ripken tied Lou Gehrig’s streak by playing in his 2,130th consecutive game. Before this time, it was widely believed that Gehrig’s record was one of two major-league records that would never be broken. The other is the record held by Joe DiMaggio, who had at least one base hit for fifty-six consecutive games. Baseball
Major League Baseball;records
Iron Man record (baseball)
[kw]Ripken Breaks Gehrig’s Iron Man Record (Sept. 6, 1995)
[kw]Gehrig’s Iron Man Record, Ripken Breaks (Sept. 6, 1995)
[kw]Iron Man Record, Ripken Breaks Gehrig’s (Sept. 6, 1995)
[kw]Record, Ripken Breaks Gehrig’s Iron Man (Sept. 6, 1995)
Major League Baseball;records
Iron Man record (baseball)
[g]North America;Sept. 6, 1995: Ripken Breaks Gehrig’s Iron Man Record[09310]
[g]United States;Sept. 6, 1995: Ripken Breaks Gehrig’s Iron Man Record[09310]
[c]Sports;Sept. 6, 1995: Ripken Breaks Gehrig’s Iron Man Record[09310]
Ripken, Cal, Jr.
Gehrig, Lou
Ripken, Cal, Sr.

Gehrig had played for the New York Yankees and was known as the Iron Horse. His consecutive game streak started in 1925 and lasted until his health failed in 1939. He had symptoms of weakness and was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, today often referred to as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Gehrig’s streak ended on April 30. Knowing that he was dying, he gave his famous “luckiest man” speech on July 4, 1939, at Yankee Stadium. Waiving existing rules, the National Baseball Hall of Fame inducted him in 1939, but he was unable to attend the ceremony because of his disease. He died on June 2, 1941, at the age of thirty-seven.

Ripken was born on August 24, 1960, in Havre de Grace, Maryland, the oldest of three boys and a girl. From 1987 to 1988, he and his brother Billy played on the same Orioles team that Cal Ripken, Sr., managed. Cal, Jr., approached baseball with a blue-collar work ethic learned from his father. Once given the chance to be a starter in 1982, he worked every day thereafter for seventeen years until September 20, 1998, when he voluntarily decided to step down from playing to help his team avoid the distraction of the streak during the 1999 season.

Ripken viewed the streak as an approach to the game rather than a quest to break Gehrig’s record. He worked and played hard every game in the major leagues and often risked the record to make a diving catch of a line drive or take a hard base-runner slide into second base as the runner tried to break up a double play. He also credited teammate Eddie Murray for teaching him how to be a major leaguer and how to play hard and win.

On September 5, when he tied Gehrig’s record of 2,130 consecutively played games, Ripken’s baseball magic illuminated the evening even further when he hit a home run in the bottom of the sixth inning. The Orioles won the game 8-0, and the stage was set for the record-breaking game on September 6 against the California Angels.

Mike Mussina Mussina, Mike was the starting pitcher for the Orioles. The stands were packed with 46,272 jubilant fans, including President Bill Clinton. Ripken’s two children, five-year-old Rachel and two-year-old Ryan, threw out the first pitch. In the fourth inning, Ripken launched a 3-0 pitch from Angels pitcher Shawn Boskie over the left field fence for a home run. At 9:20 p.m., at the start of the bottom of the fifth inning, the game became official. Illuminated numbers on the B&O Warehouse in right field had been tracking the length of Cal’s streak for the previous few weeks. As the game became official, the number changed from 2,130 to 2,131, and baseball had a new Iron Man.

Cal Ripken, Jr., waves to fans after he broke Lou Gehrig’s record of 2,130 consecutive games on September 6, 1995.

(AP/Wide World Photos)

Fireworks erupted and everyone celebrated. Cal went to his wife Kelly and his kids to hug them. Always humble, he was pushed out of the dugout eight times by teammates to receive the fans’ accolades. As the applause continued, teammates Rafael Palmeiro and Bobby Bonilla told him to take a lap of the field or the game would not get restarted. Cal was reluctant to do so but was pushed into a lap of the field by teammates. During this emotional circuit, Ripken shook hands with fans, Angels players, and even the umpires. The acknowledgment was not only for the streak but also for the outstanding character he had demonstrated throughout his career. While Ripken was taking the lap, he looked up at his father in the stands. The stern taskmaster was giving his son the thumbs-up sign to acknowledge how proud he was. The celebration interrupted the game for twenty-two minutes and fifteen seconds, and the Orioles won the game 4-2.

The game was followed by a celebration to mark the event. Teammates spoke and presented Cal with gifts. Ripken thanked his family and teammates and concluded by honoring Gehrig and their shared commitment to playing the best they could at the highest level. His teammates also presented Cal with a rock that weighed 2,131 pounds and had the number 2,131 chiseled on it. The Iron Horse’s record had given way to that of the Iron Man.


When Cal Ripken, Jr., broke Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played, he reminded fans of the importance of fundamental life values: humility, hard work, doing your best, and showing up every day. In the era where steroid use was beginning, Ripken was a throwback to earlier generations of ballplayers who played the game hard and according to the rules. When asked about the streak, Cal once responded: “I never wanted to break Lou Gehrig’s record. I never wanted to break any record. I just wanted to play baseball every day. . . . I don’t want people to remember me as a guy who played in 2,131 games, but just a guy who wanted to play baseball every day.”

Ripken’s legacy goes beyond his consecutive-games streak. He was the first big man, at six feet, four inches, to excel at shortstop, which paved the way for other tall players at the position. He also is believed to hold the record for consecutive innings played, with 8,243. Among his other honors are American League Rookie of the Year (1982), the league’s Most Valuable Player (1983, 1991, 2001), American League All-Star (annually, 1983-2001), and the game’s Most Valuable Player (1991, 2001). He won Gold Gloves for fielding in 1991-1992 and finished his career with 431 home runs and 3,184 hits. He retired from baseball on October 6, 2001, and in July, 2007, he was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Baseball
Major League Baseball;records
Iron Man record (baseball)

Further Reading

  • Beckett, James. Nine Innings with Cal Ripken, Jr. Dallas: Beckett, 1998. Includes chapters written by people who knew Cal Ripken: his parents, Alex Rodriguez, Earl Weaver, Harold Reynolds, and others.
  • Chadwick, Bruce. The Baltimore Orioles: Memories and Memorabilia of the Lords of Baltimore. New York: Abbeville Press, 1995. Includes stories and pictures of the Baltimore Orioles, with a section on the consecutive-games streak.
  • Ripken, Cal, Jr. Ripken: Cal on Cal. Arlington, Tex.: Summit, 1995. Ripken’s life story in his own words.
  • Ripken, Cal, Jr., and Mike Bryan. The Only Way I Know. New York: Penguin Books, 1997. Authorized biography of Ripken that includes a detailed account of his career and the consecutive-games streak.
  • Will, George F. Bunts: Curt Flood, Camden Yards, Pete Rose, and Other Reflections on Baseball. New York: Scribner’s Sons, 1998. Provides an account of Ripken and puts the consecutive-games streak into a larger context.

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