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Ripken legend product of desire

By JOHN ROMANO

© St. Petersburg Times,
published June 24, 2001


What would you give to see one more Hank Aaron home run? To watch Willie Mays run out from underneath his cap again? To enjoy a summer afternoon with Bob Gibson and Sandy Koufax scheduled to pitch?

That is what Cal Ripken has to offer. A final glimpse at history. And all he has to do is take the field.

Ripken, who announced he will retire at the end of the season, does not invoke memories of dramatic home runs or flashy plays in the field. His is a legacy created by consistency.

He has the requisite numbers for the Hall of Fame -- 3,000 hits and 400 home runs -- but the statistics were the byproduct of an attitude. A player who acted like he owed the game, rather than the game owing something to him.

Judging strictly by the quality of his performance, his career was not that different from one-time contemporary Robin Yount. It was The Streak that made the casual fan notice and the sincerity that made him care. When baseball alienated fans during the 1994 strike, it was Ripken who brought them back on the magical summer night when he broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive games streak.

His diminishing skills made it apparent that Ripken needed to retire, but the announcement last week still was noteworthy. Now, at least, we know this will be his final All-Star Game, his final trip around the American League.

Remember to watch. Remember to say goodbye. And, when it's all over, just remember.

TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE: When the Blue Jays put Roger Clemens on the market two years ago, the Rangers were considered front-runners because of his ties to Texas. The trade never materialized because the Rangers refused to part with prospect Ruben Mateo. Nine days ago, tired of his lack of development, the Rangers traded him to Cincinnati for Rob Bell.

IT'S ALIVE: A month ago, there were rumors the White Sox were willing to deal David Wells, Magglio Ordonez and practically anyone else after a slow start. Now, instead of dumping salaries, the White Sox have taken on Jose Canseco and are talking about a playoff run. They went from 151/2 games behind in the AL Central to 81/2 in less than a month. "If this team stays together, I think we can definitely make a run at the division and definitely as the wild card if it comes to that," Paul Konerko said.

A REDS FLAG: There is an underlying cause to the scuffle between Reds coaches Ron Oester and Tim Foli last week. When manager Bob Boone was hired, he inherited coaches Don Gullett, Ken Griffey and Oester because they still had contracts (the Reds were too cheap to eat). Foli was the hire Boone was allowed to make, setting up a division in the staff. It does not help that Oester was offered the job before Boone but turned it down because the pay wasn't enough.

D'AMICO'S WOES: The Brewers were hopeful Jeff D'Amico would be back in the rotation by now, but the St. Petersburg product has had another setback. D'Amico, who has a compressed nerve in the biceps area of his throwing arm, felt pain when he pitched in two minor-league rehabilitation starts. Doctors have advised him not to have surgery, but they are unable to give him any kind of time frame on a possible return. Manager Davey Lopes said he is not expecting D'Amico to be back this season.

AND THEN THERE WERE NONE: What do the Athletics have to show for the trade of Mark McGwire? Memories. Oakland acquired pitchers Blake Stein, Eric Ludwick and T.J. Mathews for McGwire in 1997. Stein is pitching in Kansas City, Ludwick hasn't been in the majors in two years and Mathews was designated for assignment last week.

PEP TALK: Shawon Dunston called a team meeting June 10 to tell his Giants teammates to quit feeling sorry for themselves. They won nine of 10 to move from fourth to second in the NL West.

A FATHER'S CALL: When his father died in April, a devastated Tony Womack missed six games to be with his family. On Father's Day, Womack doubled twice and hit a grand slam. The Arizona shortstop wept as he rounded the bases on his slam. "I'm used to making that three- to five-minute phone call on my way to the ballpark to wish my dad a happy Father's Day and to tell him not to spend that money all in one place," Womack said. "I still made the phone call. I called to check on my mother and she wasn't home. So I guess that she's doing better than I am."

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

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