- Audible Audio Edition
- Listening Length: 13 hours and 38 minutes
- Program Type: Audiobook
- Version: Unabridged
- Publisher: Audible Studios
- Audible.com Release Date: July 4, 2017
- Language: English
- ASIN: B073GNM331
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank:
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The Streak: Lou Gehrig, Cal Ripken, and Baseball's Most Historic Record Audiobook – Unabridged
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Cal Ripken Jr. (2,632 games) and Lou Gehrig (2,130 games) are the epitome of consecutive game streaks. Ripken started his streak on May 3, 1982 and voluntarily ended it on Sept. 19, 1998. As Ripken approached Gehrig's record in 1995, Gehrig's streak received a lot of attention.
What makes a consecutive game streak so notable? It's symbolic of a player's dependability, character and toughness.
Ripken discussed his philosophy, saying: "Playing every day for your team was the most honorable thing you could do. They were counting on you. You had a challenge that day and you came to the ballpark to meet that challenge. You played. That was the highest level you could achieve."
En route to breaking Gehrig's record, which most people felt would never be broken, Ripken answered repeated questions from the media and fans about whether or not he was being selfish in his attempt to play every game. Interestingly, Ripken's teammates and managers supported his quest. They felt his presence in the lineup, regardless of his batting average or if he was in a slump, benefited the team. Opponents generally respected him for his streak.
While Ripken and Gehrig are well-known for their consecutive game streaks, players such as George Pickney, Fred Luderus, Everett Scott, Eddie Yost and Stan Musial are not.
Author John Eisenberg adds great value to the book by reviewing the history of consecutive game streaks, the fascination of the media and fans with them and the advent of record-keeping.
In 1920, Fred Luderus of the Phillies was thought to have the longest consecutive game streak with 533 games. But, statisticians and historians had overlooked George Pinkney's streak of 578 games set in the 19th century.
Everett Scott passed Pinkney's record in 1920 and reached 1,000 consecutive games on May 1, 1923. Scott, whose streak eventually reached 1,307, went to great lengths to keep his streak intact.
Eisenberg interestingly points out the various "shenanigans" players used to manipulate and extend their streaks. In 1912, baseball rules stated that "all appearances by a player counted as a game played." That rule was later modified to eliminate a pinch-runner experience as counting toward a consecutive game streak.
Eisenberg spends a lot of time talking with Steve Garvey (1,207), Billy Williams (1,117 games) and Dale Murphy (740) about their streaks and how it affected them and their play. Eisenberg even discusses Sachio Kinugasa's streak of 2,215 games for the Hiroshima Carp.
Eisenberg essentially looks at consecutive game streaks from every angle, and it is one of the strengths of the book. The Streak is rich in details, history and insights. It's a book serious baseball fans will enjoy.
Gehrig was right when he said he was lucky. There’s a tremendous amount of good fortune involved in being able to play through injuries, illness, fatigue, etc. Eisenberg details all the drama of broken bones, fevers and other situations that might have brought either man’s attempt at sports immortality to a screeching halt.
A number of people in baseball, as well as members of the media, were not necessarily fans of what Gehrig and Ripken were trying to accomplish. They called them selfish for putting personal glory ahead of team success, especially when the ballplayers were slumping and the teams weren’t doing well. It is actually surprising how negative some of these comments could be. But support was there as well; their respective managers would say that their man playing at 50 percent was better than others playing at full strength.
Most of THE STREAK alternates between Gehrig and Ripken, delving into their athletic backgrounds and mental make-ups in an effort to explain what drove them. Gehrig grew up in poverty in the tenements of New York. He was single-minded in wanting to play every game. Back in his day, if someone was out for any length of time, there was always the possibility that he could lose his job. That’s how Gehrig’s streak began in the first place. Many non-fans know that he replaced Wally Pipp, who was out of the lineup with a headache, and didn’t move off the spot for more than a decade.
Ripken, on the other hand, grew up in a baseball family. His dad was a baseball “lifer” and instilled in him and his brother, Billy --- also a major leaguer and a teammate of Cal for a time --- a strong work ethic.
To be fair, however, it must be noted that Gehrig, Ripken and others who put together long strings of games did not necessarily play every inning of every game. The author points out several instances in which an end-around (to borrow from another sport) was made in the form of a token appearance as a pinch-hitter or by coming out of a game early, having stayed in just long enough to qualify for a continuation of their streak.
One of the more interesting sections compares the accomplishments in an attempt to show who had it tougher. In Gehrig’s era, teams played 154 games, eight fewer than the 162 Ripken had to endure. There were also great differences in travel (train when there were no major league teams west of St. Louis vs. plane across multiple time zones) and even media coverage. Then there was the degree of difficulty on defense; Ripken played a much more demanding position, coming up as a shortstop before moving to third base late in his career, while Gehrig played first base. Even the type of field comes under scrutiny as the author contends that Gehrig had it easier, playing on natural grass rather than the artificial surfaces that took more of a toll on Ripken’s generation.
Of course, we all know what ended Gehrig’s streak --- the disease that would bear his name --- and Eisenberg renders the storyline in heartbreaking fashion. For Ripken, it was also the inevitable march of time when the wear and tear of putting together 2,632 straight games just could not be shunted aside.
Eisenberg offers interstitial chapters of other men who compiled impressive feats and how the media did (or did not) handle the news. Of course, in more recent years, everything is quantifiable, so we learn about Billy Williams (1,117) and Steve Garvey (1,207). And just FYI, Everett Scott, who played for several teams from 1914 to 1926, held the record of 1,307 before Gehrig came along.
Eisenberg wraps up with examples of the paltry numbers today’s players have when it comes to playing in consecutive games (similar to the drastic drop in complete games by pitchers) and why Ripken’s mark may truly be one of the last unbreakable records.
Reviewed by Ron Kaplan.