September 6, 1995. Four banners hung from the B&O Railroad warehouse.
It was a packed house that night in Oriole Park at Camden Yards. And before the home team took the field in the bottom of the fifth, there was a small matter to attend. Cal Ripken, Jr. officially broke Lou Gehrig’s consecutive game record.
There was a 22 minute standing ovation for the man that shattered a 56 year old record. The Iron Man had surpassed The Iron Horse and America fell in love with baseball all over again.
None of this would’ve happened had it not been for a Yankees fan from the Bronx. Judge Sonia Sotomayor may become the first Hispanic to be seated on the US Supreme Court, but first she was the woman that saved baseball.
In 1992, a group of baseball owners (lead by Bud Selig and Jerry Reinsdorf) incensed by then Commissioner Fay Vincent’s interference in the 1990 lockout submitted an 18-9 vote of no confidence. Fay Vincent would have to step down from his post.
On August 12th of 1994, the MLBPA would create another work stoppage by going on strike until a new collective bargaining agreement could be signed. The Players Association felt owners were grossly abusing their power and the Senate Judiciary Committee had failed to approve an antitrust legislation filed by the MLBPA.
The owners withheld nearly $8 million due, in the previous agreement, to the players’ benefits and pension plans. They were also intent on enforcing a salary cap in hopes of mending prior mistakes accrued from the mishandling of finances.
Without a Commissioner, and with no neutral ground in site, the 1994 postseason was cancelled in its entirety. There would be no World Series winner that year, but the fans were the clear losers in this outcome.
The fans would miss Tony Gwinn’s pursuit of .400 and Matt William’s attempt to beat Roger Maris’ single season home run record. Believe it or not, the Montreal Expos may have even made a World Series appearance.
Bud Selig and the owners would agree to field replacement players at the beginning of the 2005 season. Orioles’ owner Peter Angelos stood in opposition.
Angelos was an attorney with a history of standing on the side of unions. Of course, there was also the tiny matter of Orioles shortstop Ripken, Jr. and his consecutive games streak. The Maryland House of Delegates would then step in and set legislation barring replacement players from playing in Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Though many teams cancelled their entire spring training, the regular season was spared replacement players when on March 31st of 1995; judge Sotomayor placed an injunction on the owners and their use of replacements. The strike ended, 232 days after it had started, on April 12th and baseball resumed under the rules of the previous collective bargaining agreement.
Matt Williams would never get so close to Maris’ record again, but another fellow from San Francisco would smash it in 2001. No one has broken Ted William’s record of .400. But, that evening in September, the world celebrated baseball again when the number “0” was replaced by a “1.”
Cal Ripken, Jr. would end his consecutive game streak in 2001. The only two-time All Star Game MVP would finish his career with 3,184 hits, 431 home runs, a World Series ring, AL Rookie of the Year honors, two AL MVP awards, eight silver sluggers, a gold glove, the Roberto Clemente award, the Lou Gehrig award, along with most home runs by a shortstop, most All Star Game votes (36,123,483), most All Star Game selections (American League) with 19, most ASG appearances by a shortstop (15), most consecutive ASG starts(17), most consecutive innings played (8243), and most consecutive games played (2632).
Cal Ripken, Jr. was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007. He garnered the third highest percentage of votes in history.
Judge Sonia Sotomayor was nominated to Federal Judicial service by President George H.W. Bush in 1991. In 1997, she was nominated to the Federal Court of Appeals by President Bill Clinton. On May 26th of 2009, President Barack Obama nominated judge Sotomayor to the United States Supreme Court.
Not bad for a Yankees fan from the Bronx.