3,000th hit another milestone for Ripken
As he rounded first base after reaching one of baseball’s most sacred milestones, it was only fitting that Cal Ripken was greeted by another future Hall of Famer.
There at first base on April 15, 2000, was Eddie Murray, the Orioles first base coach, ready to congratulate Ripken on recording his 3,000th hit – a milestone Murray himself had reached just five years earlier.
“Seeing a big, friendly face down there at first, that was special,” Ripken told the Baltimore Sun. “Given the time we spent together as teammates, and what he taught me about how to play the game long enough to do something like this, it obviously was meaningful to have him there at that moment.”
Murray, who was Ripken’s teammate in Baltimore from 1981-88, was the first of many to offer him congratulations at the Metrodome, where the Orioles were taking on the Twins. The Baltimore dugout quickly emptied, as Ripken’s teammates rushed to embrace him.
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Someone retrieved the ball that Ripken had hit to center field for a single, and he handed it off to his family in the stands for safekeeping.
Ripken had started the season in a bit of a slump, entering the game with a .176 batting average, and the pressure to get to 3,000 was beginning to mount.
“I was relieved, I felt a weight was lifted from my shoulders,” Ripken said. “It was a phenomenal experience, one I’m really glad is over.”
Had he waited a couple more games, Ripken might have had the chance to reach the milestone in front of a home crowd in Baltimore. But he didn’t think of delaying it any further.
“It obviously would have been a great and fulfilling celebration [in Baltimore],” Ripken said. “But there’s also an honor you owe the game. You can’t fudge it. You can’t show up not to play.”
The Minnesota fans were fully aware of the significance of the moment they were witnessing. The crowd was at its feet for a four-minute ovation, and after the game, Ripken reemerged from the dugout to spend a few minutes signing autographs along the right field line.
“I wish everyone could experience the feeling of being on the road and being cheered like a hometown player,” Ripken said. “I wanted to let them know how much I appreciated it.”
Ripken entered the game needing just three hits to attain the milestone. After grounding out in his first at-bat, he singled in the fourth with a man on first, then added another single in the fifth to put him one hit away.
Twins manager Tom Kelly wasn’t going to make it easy for him. When Ripken came to bat in the top of the seventh, Kelly made a pitching change, bringing in right-hander Hector Carrasco to face the future Hall of Famer.
Carrasco’s first pitch was a passed ball, which allowed a runner to score from third and ran the count to 1-0. The next was a fastball, which Ripken lined to center field for No. 3,000.
“It seemed like it was happening in slow motion,” Ripken said. “I knew it was a hit.”
Ripken became the 23rd player in history to reach to milestone, and just the seventh to also reach the 400-homer mark. The Orioles capped it all off by closing out a 6-4 victory over the Twins.
Janey Murray was the digital content specialist at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum