Cal Ripken, major league baseball’s Iron Man, played in 2,632 consecutive games, a streak that will be hard to top. Almost as impressive, though, was Ripken’s run of 19 consecutive All-Star Game appearances from 1983 to 2001. Ripken will be in the Twin Cities for Tuesday’s All-Star Game at Target Field, and he chatted beforehand with the Star Tribune’s Michael Rand:
Q You got to play in an All-Star Game in your home ballpark in Baltimore in 1993. What do you remember from that game?
A It was special and stressful. I got off to a little bit of a slow start. I never tried to have a good first half just to make the All-Star team except when it was in [Baltimore]. And that put a lot of pressure on me. I don’t know if it was conscious, but I desperately wanted to play in that game.
Q The All-Star Game a lot of people remember is your last one in 2001, with your home run and the players motioning you over to play shortstop. What do you remember about that, and did you have any inkling as to what might happen?
A It was out of the blue. I was asked a couple questions about playing an inning at shortstop, and some reporters were poking around. I dismissed that as being nothing. Why would I play shortstop if I hadn’t played shortstop in a long time? So that was a surprise. … Also, I remember my plane got canceled out of Washington, D.C., and I didn’t get to sleep much. I went straight from the airport to the ballfield. It was emotional for me, the last one. I wanted to perform well and be worthy being there. I didn’t try to hit a home run, but it was a pretty cool feeling in your last All-Star Game to make a contribution. My son was 8 at the time, and I put him in uniform and took him on the field, and that was special for me as a dad.
Q Behind the scenes at the All-Star Game, what are some of the best things that happen that people might be surprised or curious about?
A I always used it to get familiar with the pitchers I couldn’t hit. Pitchers might make you feel uncomfortable, that they’re mean guys. Hitters want to understand the pitchers are good guys who are just competing. I remember seeking out some pitchers. … Pedro Martinez was probably the best pitcher. When he had it going on, he had the best fastball, best curveball and best changeup. It was fun to find out he’s fun-loving. When you’re standing in the box it gives you a little more courage.
Q One change since your All-Star era is World Series home field for the winning league. Thoughts on that?
A In the beginning I didn’t like it. I’m not sure I like it now. I always thought growing up that it was really cool to see a legitimate All-Star team that competed for the pride of which league was better. Everybody played really hard.
Q You had your 3,000th hit at the Metrodome. Is it weird for you to think that building is no longer standing?
A It is strange for me because Minnesota to me was the Metrodome. It was brand new in my first full year in 1982. … The Twins were a fun team to compete against and watch. That Dome fit the spirit of the Twins in many ways, to me, and there were nuances that they totally took advantage of.