By John Eisenberg
About The Author:
John Eisenber is the son of a bookstore owner and an Ivy League graduate. He was a sports columnist for almost 30 years with the Baltimore Sun. He’s witnessed several of sports historic moments including Cal Ripken’s 2,131st straight game in 1995, Tiger Woods’ barrier-busting triumph at the 1997 Masters, Michael Jordan’s career-ending buzzer-beater against Utah in 1998, and the Ravens’ improbable Super Bowl triumph in January 2001.
Why I read The Streak:
I grew up 3 hours south of Baltimore in Richmond, Va. At that time our cable package included TBS (Atlanta Braves), WGN (Chicago Cubs) and MASN (Baltimore Orioles). I am personally a Mets fan, but as an infielder it was hard not to love Cal Ripken. And it was a pleasure to get to watch him play any night I wanted.
He was everything that a ball player should be. He had a reliable bat. You never had to worry about him on defense. He was the quarterback of the team. He was “Mr. Dependable” in every way. Having previously read Ripken’s autobiography, I thought it would be interesting to read this book that paired him vs Lou Gehrig, the previous owner of the longest consecutive games played record.
Lou Gehrig’s career spanned the majority of the 1920’s and 30’s. Ripken’s was from the early 80’s to the early 2000’s. Life was completely different during those eras. The world was was completely different.
But 1 thing was the same. The work ethic demonstrated by these 2 individuals was super natural. We all know plenty of folks that work hard or are dedicated. But the idea of getting up every day to go to work for a year without missing 1 day is crazy. The thought of not missing 1 day of work for 16 years is too much for me to even wrap my head around. Heck, just last week I was stuck in bed with a stomach bug. I was a shell of a human. It made me appreciate their careers even more while I laid there!
The Streak does a wonderful job of threading together the paths that both Ripken & Gehrig took to set their records.
You could argue that either had “easier” or “harder” things to contend with. But it’s an argument that nobody can win.
Lou Gehrig’s story is tragic. The Hall of Fame slugger played through several incredible injuries. But the thing that unknowingly finally knocked him out of the lineup was amyotrophic lateral sclerosis. ALS came to be known as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease” for the simple fact that he was the most famous person to ever be diagnosed with it. ALS has obviously been brought back into the spotlight of the baseball world and national spotlight over the last few years thanks in part to Pete Frates & the “ALS Challenge.”
This is a video of Gehrig’s speech at Yankee Stadium on “Lou Gehrig Appreciation Day.”
They said nobody would ever surpass Lou Gehrig’s record of playing in 2,130 consecutive games. Then Cal Ripken came along. They say nobody will ever break his streak. I agree. But I’ve been wrong before.
The Streak opens with the story of the night Cal broke the record. I remember watching it live. I found the link on YouTube & have posted it at the top of this page. The game become official a little after the 1 hour 48 minute mark. Prepare yourself for goosebumps & tears.
Cal & Lou will forever be linked. As they should be. I hope that future generations look to them for inspiration for how to approach the game.
*I have to make an admission. This book is decently long. Nearly 300 pages. I skipped large chunks at a time. The book covers record holders of the longest streaks prior to Gehrig that to be 100% honest I was not interested in learning about. Nothing against those players. I just wanted to learn more about Lou & Cal. And life is to short to read things you’re not interested in!