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Gonzalez can appreciate Ripken

By KEVIN KELLY, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 18, 2002

At a time when players miss weeks for the slightest injury, Luis Gonzalez took pride in and has gained respect for his everyday durability.

The Diamondbacks leftfielder and Tampa native played in 446 consecutive games until he sat out Wednesday with a pulled muscle in his rib cage. His was the longest active streak in the majors, and a considerable one at that, until held up to Cal Ripken's record of 2,632 straight games.

"I didn't even scratch the surface," Gonzalez said. "You don't see those streaks anymore because of travel and the grind of playing. You learn to respect what Cal did, and you won't see anyone break that record."

Gonzalez batted .312 with 112 home runs and 347 RBIs and won a World Series title during the streak, which began against the Padres on Oct. 1, 1999.

"I think it probably makes him sad in one respect, but I'm sure there's a part of him that's relieved," Arizona manager Bob Brenly said. "There have been days when he probably should have had a day off."

Now that Gonzalez is starting over, the longest active streak belongs to the A's Miguel Tejada. The All-Star shortstop has played in 394 straight and hadn't missed a game since May 31, 2000.

THE REPLACEMENTS: Should players go on strike Aug. 30, a handful of current major-leaguers who were replacement players in 1994-95 could curry favor with the union by walking out this time.

Among those in the majors who crossed the lines are Rick Reed (Twins), Trenidad Hubbard (Padres), Kerry Ligtenberg (Braves), Keith Lockhart (Braves), Cory Lidle (A's), Damian Miller (Diamondbacks), Keith Osik (Pirates), Matt Herges (Expos), Shane Spencer (Yankees) and Jeff Tam (A's).

ATTENDANCE KILLER: One thing Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria won't have to spend additional money on is WD-40 to lube the turnstiles at Pro Player Stadium.

An intimate gathering of 4,746 fans at Wednesday's game allowed the Marlins to overtake the team Loria owned last season, Montreal, for the worst average home attendance (10,049 through Thursday) in the majors.

That average is below that of two Pacific Coast League teams: the Memphis Redbirds (10,555) and Sacramento River Cats (11,180).

NO TO NORTHWEST: Sammy Sosa will travel to the West Coast, the East Coast and everywhere in between to play baseball.

But the Chicago rightfielder recently refused to fly on a Northwest charter the Cubs twice had trouble with earlier this season. Sosa used his own charter to travel from San Francisco to Denver.

"There are two strikes already," he said. "Three strikes, you're out."

Sosa invited teammates Fred McGriff, Moises Alou and Todd Hundley, among others, on his charter. But it appears that will be the last of the exclusive travel arrangements.

"Sammy agrees that it's important for the team to travel together," said general manager Jim Hendry, who flew the Northwest charter without incident.

THE SPOILER: Outfielder Troy O'Leary, who spent the spring with the Rays and is batting close to .300 with the Expos, ruined Dodgers closer Eric Gagne's save opportunity Tuesday against the team he rooted for as a youngster.

O'Leary hit a two-run homer off Gagne in the eighth inning of a 4-3 Montreal win. It was the third blown save of the season for Gagne, who grew up in Quebec, and first since July 3.

"Maybe I was a little anxious," Gagne said.

BAKER PEEVED: Before Giants manager Dusty Baker could present Barry Bonds with the lineup card from the game in which Bonds hit his 600th career homer, it was stolen from his office.

"I hate a thief," Baker said. "My dad will tell you there were two things you'd get a whipping for in my house: being a thief and being a liar."

ODDS AND ENDS: The Rangers have gone 432 games, through Friday, without having a pitcher strike out 10 or more in a game. Red Sox ace Pedro Martinez accomplished the feat 33 times during the span. ... A loss against Boston on Wednesday assured Seattle that it would not match its 116-win total from last season. ... White Sox reliever Keith Foulke could be in the starting rotation by the end of the season. Foulke was a starter in the Giants' farm system. He is 1-4 with a 6.99 ERA in eight career major-league starts.

THE LAST WORD: Reds first baseman Sean Casey looks forward to meeting players from opposing teams while guarding his position, which has earned him the distinction as the chattiest first basemen in the majors. "He's like that guy in Seinfeld, the close talker. You think Casey's going to lick your face," Padres third baseman Phil Nevin said.

-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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