Ripken reflects on 2001 All-Star Game
Ten years ago Sunday, Cal Ripken Jr. took the field in Seattle for the 19th and final All-Star Game of his Hall of Fame career. He headed to third base, where fans had voted him the American League starter in the 72nd Midsummer Classic at Safeco Field.
Once there, however, starting shortstop Alex Rodriguez suggested that Ripken swap places with him, allowing the Orioles great to move back to the position where he had played for 14-plus straight seasons and won two Gold Gloves.
Was Ripken touched by Rodriguez’s gesture? Not exactly — at least, not at first.
“At the time, it wasn’t so meaningful because I was mad. I don’t like to be surprised,” Ripken said Tuesday on a conference call. “I was wired, I was on a mike, and I really wanted to tell [Rodriguez], ‘No, get out of here,’ in a different way than I just described it to you.”
Once his surprise had passed and he had shown he could still play shortstop, however, Ripken felt differently.
“It was the coolest gesture that anyone can give you,” he said. “When it was all said and done and I hadn’t embarrassed myself out there, it was the coolest gesture ever.”
Ripken further added to his legacy that day, being named Most Valuable Player after hitting the first pitch he saw from Chan Ho Park in the third inning over the left-field fence for the game's first run.
Ripken’s performance in the game is a finalist in Major League Baseball’s Midsummer Classics bracket tournament, in which fans vote for the greatest moment in All-Star Game history. Stan Musial’s walk-off home run in 1955 is the other finalist.
Fans can vote through Saturday at mlb.com/moments. The winner will be revealed at this season’s All-Star Game, Tuesday in Phoenix.