Any Gehrig fan knows the significance of Baltimore Oriole Cal Ripken, Jr. On September 6, 1995, Ripken surpassed Gehrig's
record of 2,130 consecutive games, playing in his home stadium, Baltimore Park at Camden Yards. Before and after this fateful
night, the media worked overtime on comparing these two men, but few looked passed the streak they had in common. And it's
about time someone did.
Of course, there are many more differences between them than there are similarities: Gehrig wore 4, Ripken wore 8; Gehrig
played first, Ripken started at third then went to short then back to third; Gehrig's parents were anti-sports (until Gehrig
turned pro) whereas Ripken's were forever immersed in sports; Gehrig is often classified among the top hitters of all time,
In fact, if Ripken had not played in so many games straight, he very likely would never have been compared to Gehrig at
all. But the men had more similarities than just stamina.
Both men had impeccable reputations and were considered pillars of their respective teams.
Gehrig was born, was raised, and played his entire career in the same metro (New York City). Ripken was born, was raised,
and played his entire career in the same area (Baltimore). The year Gehrig was born, 1903, the team that would eventually
be named the Yankees moved to New York - from Baltimore.
Gehrig was recruited to the Yankees in June (1923). Ripken was drafted to the Orioles in June (1978).
Gehrig won the American League MVP during the second season in which he played every game (1927). Ripken won the American
League MVP during the second season in which he played every game (1983).
Both were adamant about physical fitness, stood over 6 feet tall, and weighed 200+ pounds.
When Gehrig was due to play in his 2,000th game, his wife suggested he stop at 1,999 because she felt the number 1,999
would be more memorable than 2,000. Gehrig did not take her seriously and continued to play. When Ripken was due to play in
his 2,131st game, some people suggested to him that he stop at 2,130 because a tie would give honor to Gehrig and the number
would be more memorable. Ripken did not take their advice and continued to play. On the matter, he said that stopping would
have implied that the record was a goal rather than a result of his deep love for the game. "Lou Gehrig would not have wanted
me to sit out a game as a show of honor."
While he was still relatively young, Gehrig's hair began to turn gray, partly because of his disease which his wife labeled
"the tyrant" of his life. Ripken's hair also turned gray prematurely, and he contributed the first gray hair to the first
time he was asked a question about the streak, the tyrant of his career.
Gehrig took himself out of the lineup rather than having his manager do it (May 2, 1939). Ripken also took himself
out of the lineup (September 20, 1998).
Throughout their fame, both men agreed to do endorsements for various products. For Gehrig the endorsements included Hillerich
& Bradsby (Louisville Sluggers), Huskies cereal (a long-gone Wheaties rival), and a baseball glove. For Ripken the endorsements
included a baseball glove, Wheaties, Coca-Cola, and Chevy trucks. Gehrig had the Knot Hole League for young baseball fans;
a Little League baseball tournament was named in honor of Ripken. Gehrig wrote a chapter about playing first base for Rogers
Hornsby's baseball book; Ripken wrote his autobiography centered on, of course, baseball.
While the majority of comparisons between the two men rightfully revolve around their incredible endurance, it's also interesting
to know that these two Iron Horses fell into step in a variety of other ways. Though not close to being twins, they do have
similarities which should be enough to make any fan go, "hmmm, how 'bout that."