THE STRIKE WON'T BEND THE WILL OF BASEBALL'S IRONMAN
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
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