A Week to Remember: The Most Unbreakable Record in Sports? | Los Angeles Public Library
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A Week to Remember: The Most Unbreakable Record in Sports?

Keith Chaffee, Librarian, Central Library,
A photo of Cal Ripken, Jr. and text that reads A Week to Remember

On September 19, 1998, Cal Ripken, Jr. played in his 2,632nd consecutive Major League Baseball game, the longest streak in baseball history. The previous record was Lou Gehrig's 2,130 games; that record had stood for 56 years when Ripken broke it in 1995.

Ripken spent his entire career, from 1981 to 2001, with the Baltimore Orioles. His consecutive game streak began in May 1982. The streak was threatened by injury on a few occasions, most seriously in April 1985, when a team doctor ordered Ripken to rest for 24 hours after spraining his ankle. By the good luck of the schedule, the Orioles didn't have a game the next day, and Ripken was able to return for the next game.

Perhaps the biggest threat to Ripken's streak, though, was the 1994-95 Major League Baseball strike. The players went on strike in August, causing the cancellation of the last two months of the regular season, and of the playoffs and World Series. During the winter break before the 1995 season, the league approved the hiring of replacement players if the striking players did not return to work.  The Orioles' owner, Peter Angelos, announced that he would not hire replacement players and would not field a team; had the Orioles actually forfeited games in that way, Ripken's streak would have ended. The strike was settled the day before the season was to begin with replacement players; the start of the season was delayed by three weeks, and Ripken's streak continued.

Ripken ended his streak voluntarily on September 20, 1998. It is, by far, the longest consecutive game streak in professional American sports, in part because baseball has a longer season than other sports. The only such streaks that are comparable in duration to Ripken's are held by A. C. Green, who played in 1,192 consecutive NBA games between 1987 and 2001; and Jeff Gordon, who drove in 797 consecutive NASCAR races between 1992 and 2015.

No currently active MLB player has a consecutive game streak of more than 300 games, and Ripken's record is widely thought to be unbreakable.

John Eisenberg tells the complete story of Ripken's accomplishment in The Streak, available as an e-book at OverDrive, or in print.

Also This Week

  • September 20, 1929: Anne Meara was born. Meara and her husband, Jerry Stiller, were a popular comedy team of the 1960s, performing sketch comedy rooted in improvisation. They mostly stopped performing as a duo in the early 1970s, saying that the act put too much strain on their marriage. Stiller and Meara's comedy can be heard on their album Presenting America's New Comedy Sensations, available for streaming at Hoopla.
  • September 20, 1948: George R. R. Martin was born. Martin is best known as the author of the "Song of Ice and Fire" series, which inspired the Game of Thrones TV series, but you might also enjoy some of his earlier work. Fevre Dream is a pre-Civil War vampire novel (OverDrive e-book, e-audio; print), and The Armageddon Rag is a mystery/fantasy novel about the murder of a much-hated rock promoter (OverDrive e-book; print).
  • September 23, 1977: Aja, the sixth album from jazz-rock band Steely Dan, was released. It was their best-selling album, and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2003. "Peg" and "Deacon Blues" were the hit singles from the album. Aja is available for streaming at Hoopla.
  • September 19, 2010: The Deepwater Horizon oil spill ended when the well was sealed. In the five months that the spill lasted, it is estimated that nearly 5 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf of Mexico, making it the largest oil spill in history. Carl Safina's A Sea in Flames (OverDrive e-book) tells the story of the mistakes that led to the disaster, evaluates the government's handling of the crisis, and looks at the ongoing consequences.