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1982: Two dates from Ripken's rookie year defined the course of his career. On May 30, The Streak began. On July 1, he was moved from third base to shortstop. He responded by winning the American League Rookie of the Year award and helping the Orioles remain in contention for the AL East crown until the final game. His first Opening Day was memorable, with three hits, including a home run. The season included 44 consecutive errorless games at third base, his first grand slam and a five-hit game.
1983: In a magical year, Ripken emerged as the first player to win the American League's Rookie of the Year and Most Valuable Player awards in consecutive seasons. He also became the first Oriole to play every inning of every game. He topped it all off by catching a line drive from Philadelphia's Garry Maddox to end the World Series and secure the only championship of his career. Ripken led major league shortstops in assists (534) and American League shortstops in total chances (831) and double plays (113).
1984: The Orioles weren't in a pennant race, but Ripken added to his growing legacy. With a new four year contract that paid him about $4 million, Ripken again played every inning of every game, hitting for average and power. He set the American League record for assists with 583, and led the club by hitting .311 with runners in scoring position. The season marked his first start in an All-Star Game. Ripken also joined childhood idol Brooks Robinson as the only Orioles to hit for the cycle.
1985: With veterans Jim Palmer, Al Bumbry and Ken Singleton gone, Ripken took on a greater load and delivered, placing first or second on the team in 12 offensive categories. His consecutive games streak reached 603 and his consecutive innings streak hit 5,457, but both were endangered when Ripken sprained his left ankle in a game on April 10. The Orioles played an exhibition game the next day, which Ripken spent on crutches. He remained in the lineup for the next official game.
1986: After 19 consecutive winning years, the Orioles collapsed in the season's final two months and finished last in the American League East, 22 games out of first place. Ripken continued to exhibit the traits of a leader, pacing all shortstops in home runs, RBIs, runs and slugging percentage for the fourth straight season. He remained dependable in the clutch, tying for the AL lead with 15 game-winning RBIs. He became the first player other than Eddie Murray to lead the team in home runs in the 1980s.
1987: Ripken had his father, Cal Sr., as manager and his brother Bill as a double-play partner, but the Orioles finished sixth in the American League East, with 95 losses. Ripken's .252 batting average was his lowest average in six full seasons. He hit .229 after May 16. He still drove in nearly 100 runs, but as his batting average fell, talk intensified of ending The Streak. But it stood at 927 consecutive games after the season. Cal Sr., in his first season as manager, halted his son's consecutive-innings streak at 8,243.
1988: Ripken's slow start mirrored that of the Orioles, who lost their first 21 games, the worst start in major league history. Through 12 games, Ripken had only two hits in 43 at-bats (.047). But he rebounded with a 29-for-55 binge to raise his average to .316 on May 8. The Orioles finished with a club-record 107 losses, but Ripken's final numbers were respectable. Despite the firing of his father as manager six games into the season, he rejected free agency, signing a three year, $6.3 million contract extension July 27.
1989: Ripken served notice early that this season would be far different from the previous year's 107-loss debacle. On Opening Day, he hit a three-run homer off ace Roger Clemens to spark a victory over Boston. The Orioles emerged as surprise contenders under manager Frank Robinson, challenging Toronto until the final weekend in an improbable worst to-first bid. Ripken had a 47-game errorless streak and led major league shortstops in putouts, assists, total chances and double plays.
1990: The Orioles finished nine games below .500, but Ripken reached new heights in the field. He committed a record-low three errors in 681 chances over 161 games for an unprecedented .996 percentage. Ripken also set major league records with 95 straight errorless games and 428 consecutive chances without a miscue. At the plate, Ripken surpassed Vern Stephens to become the most prolific home run hitting shortstop in AL history. He extended his record for shortstops by hitting at least 20 homers in nine straight seasons.
1991: The Orioles lost 95 games, but Ripken's last season at Memorial Stadium was one to remember, with a second American League Most Valuable Player award. He established career highs in homers and RBIs and won his first Gold Glove, joining Maury Wills as the only players to be named MVP, Major League Player of the Year, All-Star Game MVP and a Gold Glove winner in the same season. He won the All-Star home run contest, connecting on 12 of 22 swings, then hit a three-run shot the next night to win the MVP award.
1992: Ripken's output was the worst of his 11 full seasons in the major leagues to that point. He dropped from career highs in home runs, RBIs and extra-base hits in 1991 to lows the next season, and went 73 games without a homer. But he also won his second Gold Glove, and he signed a contract Aug. 24, his 32nd birthday, that made him "an Oriole for life." He twisted his right ankle while running out a double during September in his 1,713th consecutive game, but he remained in the lineup.
1993: Ripken started the All-Star Game at Camden Yards and hit twice as many homers as any other AL shortstop. But The Streak almost took a hit during his 1,790th consecutive game on June 6. During an Orioles-Mariners brawl, he twisted his right knee. The knee was badly swollen and painful the next morning. Ripken later said, "It was the closest I've come to not playing." Three days later, he plowed into Oakland catcher Terry Steinbach at home plate, knocking him out with a forearm to the jaw. The Streak survived.
1994: Ripken's finest season since his MVP year of 1991 was cut short after 112 games when players went on strike in August. The season never resumed, and the World Series was canceled. The owners threatened to use replacement players, which could have left Ripken 122 games shy of Lou Gehrig's record. Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos refused to support the idea, and state and city legislators backed him by passing laws that banned the use of replacement players at Camden Yards. The Streak was preserved.
1995: The labor dispute that began in 1994 wasn't settled until 1995, resulting in a shortened season. But this was the year Ripken broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games streak. He was given much of the credit for saving baseball after the strike had alienated many fans. Ripken homered the night he tied Gehrig at 2,130, and again when he passed the Yankees legend Sept. 6. When that game became official, he took a memorable lap around Camden Yards. He was named Sportsman of the Year by Sports Illustrated.
1996: For the first time since 1983, Ripken and the Orioles played in the postseason, advancing to the American League Championship Series before losing to the Yankees. Ripken exceeded 100 RBIs for the first time in five years and batted .444 in the Division Series upset of the Indians. Another milestone was reached in June when Ripken played in consecutive game No. 2,216 in Kansas City, surpassing Japan's Sachio Kinugasa for the world record. The Streak continued even after Ripken broke his nose during an All-Star Game photo session.
1997: Ripken moved to third base on a permanent basis after the Orioles signed Mike Bordick as a free agent in the offseason. The Orioles led the division from start to finish to reach the postseason. They defeated the Mariners in the Division Series, with Ripken batting .438, but then lost to the Indians in the AL Championship Series, during which he batted .348. He started his 14th consecutive All-Star Game, his first at third base. Back trouble flared in August, but he didn't miss a game.
1998: When The Streak ended, Ripken did it on his terms. He told manager Ray Miller that he wanted out of the lineup on Sept. 20, and it was over after 2,632 consecutive games. Ryan Minor started at third base in place of Ripken, who had played an additional 501 games after breaking Lou Gehrig's record. There were more milestones. Ripken made an unprecedented 15th consecutive All-Star Game start. He became the first American League player to appear in at least 150 games in 15 seasons.
1999: His father died during spring training, and he went on the disabled list for the first time. But through the personal grief and injuries, Ripken delivered one of his better seasons despite limited playing time. He appeared in only 86 games but established career highs in batting average and slugging percentage. He batted .352 between trips to the DL. On Sept. 2, he became the 29th player in major league history to hit 400 home runs. In Atlanta, he had a six-hit game with two homers and six RBIs.
2000: With his 3,000th hit on April 15, Ripken joined elite company, becoming the seventh player in history to have both 3,000 hits and 400 home runs. But he appeared in only 83 games. There was a trip to the disabled list because of inflammation in his lower back, preventing him from playing in the All-Star Game. He hit safely in 13 of 20 games after coming off the DL. Batting cleanup for the first time since August 1997, Ripken collected four hits during a Sept. 13 game in Texas.
2001: Ending months of speculation, Ripken confirmed on June 19 that he would retire after the 2001 season. The summer evolved into a continual tribute, with ceremonies and standing ovations greeting him in every city. Ripken homered in six of 12 cities he visited after his retirement announcement. Ripken displayed his flair for the dramatic again at the All-Star Game in Seattle, hitting a home run off Los Angeles righthander Chan Ho Park and earning Most Valuable Player honors.