Sporting events, as a whole, are full of feel-good moments. It’s the reason why we have Rudy, The Natural, and Remember The Titans. It’s the reason why we watch One Shining Moment at the end of every NCAA Men’s Basketball tournament. Plainly speaking, if you can watch this video without feeling something, it’s possible you’ve been sent from the future to kill John Connor. Baseball had one of those moments during the 2001 All-Star Game, thanks to Cal Ripken, Jr.
If you grew up in the 80s and 90s you probably saw a lot of Ripken. Why? Because the guy played in 2,632 consecutive games – which is just over 16 seasons – besting Lou Gehrig for the most consecutive games played. Ripken was a staple for the Baltimore Orioles for the majority of two decades, and paved the way for a new generation of shortstops. Not only was he a slick defensive stopgap at the most pivotal position on the field, but he was also a fantastic hitter. The guy ended his career with 431 home runs, 3,184 hits, and is generally consider one of the best – if not the best – shortstops to ever play the game. Ripken also made a total of 19 All-Star games, the last of which was his most memorable.
During the first half of the 2001 season, Ripken – at the tender age of 40 – let it be known that it would be his last year in the bigs. Because of his popularity amongst the fans, and having switched to 3B to lengthen his career, Ripken was voted in as the staring third baseman despite his lack of production that season. Everyone assumed he would go out, play a few innings, and then make way for the young guns to have their fun. As a tribute to the man’s last season of his career, Alex Rodriguez, who was starting at shortstop, urged Ripken to switch positions with him at the start of the game. Funny enough, this was apparently the last time the humanoid version of Alex Rodriguez has been seen in public.
After a few innings, Ripken went up for what would possibly be his last at bat ever in an All-Star game and he did not disappoint.
Ripken went on to become MVP of the 2001 All-Star game and was a first ballot Hall of Famer, receiving the 3rd-highest percentage of votes ever, and the most ever by a position player. As Brad Pitt, portraying Billy Beane, says in Moneyball, “How can you not be romantic about baseball?”