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THE STRIKE WON'T BEND THE WILL OF BASEBALL'S IRONMAN
Published March 17, 1995
The consecutive game streak of Cal Ripken has been the focus of a great deal of media attention as the regular season is poised to begin with replacement players that could possibly end Ripken's quest. Yesterday, THE SPORTS BUSINESS DAILY spoke with Ripken's agent, Ron Shapiro, about the effect the work stoppage has had on his client and The Streak's place as an issue in the ongoing work stoppage. THE DAILY: What are you advising your client? SHAPIRO: When you have a client like Cal Ripken, you really don't have to give him a lot of advice -- for two reasons. First, Cal doesn't put his individual accomplishments on a level with his responsibilities to his fellow teammates and his fellow baseball players. And secondly, he is a man who doesn't -- and maybe this is what makes it possible for him to accomplish things like the so-called streak -- he is a man who doesn't deal with the hypothetical. He deals with issues by confronting them straight on. At the present time, the issue of how things are going to impact on his streak is still somewhat hypothetical. I should emphasize that there were times this past year when Cal suffered injuries and assessed, not whether or not he should extend his streak by appearing in the next game, but whether or not the injury would stand in the way of his producing what he had to produce for the team. People who knew him well were somewhat shocked not to think that he wasn't thinking what they were thinking -- and that is, what is going to happen to his streak. THE DAILY: Is this a looming PR disaster for the owners with the all the emotion the fans feel for Cal's streak? SHAPIRO: What is going to come back and bite the owners, and in fact everyone affiliated with the game, is that the fans are getting increasingly disgusted and increasingly disinterested with the whole concept of the game of baseball. The streak symbolizes something for the fans. Baseball was something that was there throughout the summer on an everyday basis, and Cal Ripken was someone who was there on an everyday basis. It was a reliable part of their lives, and the fact that the work stoppage could undo the streak goes to the heart of what the fans feel they are being deprived in terms of baseball from day to day. So, it certainly symbolizes something in the minds of fans and those who follow the game. THE DAILY: Is there any pressure from the union on Cal to use the streak as a bargaining chip? SHAPIRO: The union has offered on several occasions to relax rules, or to get Cal out there if he wanted them to consider it, so that he could keep playing and he said 'By no means do I get treated specially.' There has been no pressure by the union for Cal to use the streak, however Cal has been viewed by his fellow players as a man making perhaps even a greater sacrifice than other players and it allowed him to be a catalyst for solidarity because he has chosen to make it a catalyst. For example, in the most recent meeting of high profile players, Cal didn't speak for a long time, but when one of the players called on him to speak, Cal was a very significant force in solidifying opinion about the importance of solidarity and their support of the union. And that is not hard for Cal to do, he doesn't need the union to tell him that. THE DAILY: What does Cal have to lose or gain in terms of endorsements from ther streak? SHAPIRO: There is no question that Cal is the modern Iron Man of baseball and, in many ways, the all-time Iron Man because of the hundreds and hundreds or perhaps thousands of more innings that he has played than Lou Gehrig. That has already given him a special spot in the constellation of endorsement opportunities out there. Nevertheless, hitting and surpassing a historic record that people said was unobtainable by anyone in the modern age of baseball, particularly someone that plays the position of shortstop, would open even new doors of opportunities for him. He would be the ultimate in strength, dependability, durability, all the things potential endorsement sponsors would love to have in a spokesperson, and so there are going to be some lost opportunities. ... But in the end if he is denied the opportunity to break Lou Gehrig's streak, he will be denied some endorsement opportunities.