When the Orioles’ Cal Ripken became a forever iron-man of Major League Baseball with 2,131 consecutive games played in 1995, Rockies’ commentator Jeff Huson, a former Baltimore infielder, was Ripken’s teammate.
Sunday marked 25 years since the night Ripken made history. For Huson, it feels a lot like yesterday.
“I was so ecstatic that I got to start in that historic game,” Huson said. “I caught the first out of the ballgame, I was playing third, and I’m standing underneath it. All I could think to myself was, ‘Do not drop this. There are 50-million people watching you right now.’”
Huson signed as a free agent with the Orioles to begin the 1995 season. Ripken set the tone early by gifting all of his teammates Timex Ironman watches, “so you wouldn’t be late for anything,” Huson said. It was a reflection of Ripken’s dedication to a routine which, somehow, allowed him to avoid significant injury while making 19 All-Star teams.
“For somebody like myself who had three knee surgeries and a shoulder surgery that cost me time in the big leagues, it’s just remarkable that his body held up for that long,” Huson said.
Huson recalls serious media hype entering that year as Ripken approached Gehrig’s mark. Players in advance determined which game it would happen — Sept. 6, 1995 vs. the Angels — with all eyes on Ripken. Even former President Bill Clinton spoke with him before the game.
Not only did Ripken play and break the record, the future Hall-of-Famer also hit a home run.
“We all just looked at each other in the dugout and said, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me,’” Huson said. “Disney wouldn’t buy rights to this movie because they wouldn’t even be able to believe it.”
Rockies’ manager Bud Black said Ripken’s total consecutive games played — 2,632 — will never be surpassed.
“That is a phenomenal, amazing record to do what Cal did,” Black said. “To exhibit that durability and that mental strength to play every single day from April to October, in all the years that he did it … it’s incredible.”
Gonzalez set for return. Rockies’ right-handed pitcher Chi Chi Gonzalez — reinstated from the 10-day injured list (biceps) last week — will make his first start since Aug. 3 on Tuesday at the San Diego Padres.
“From the get-go, we needed Chi Chi to be a part of our pitching staff,” Black said. “He had a little bit of a shoulder problem that set him back and we put him on the injury list. But we feel he’s very capable of being a big-league starter and also he can do some things to help us if we need him in the bullpen.”