Shame on Cal Ripken, Non-Scab

There are certain things much more worthy of our outrage these days, I realize. But there was a letter to the editor in last week’s Sports Illustrated that I just found spectacularly wrongheaded.

In response to a column by Phil Taylor about the falling legitimacy of sports records, Rick Middleton of Carleton Place, Ontario, writes in with the following:

“I have always thought that there was one record in the sports books that was a bit distorted and deserved an asterisk: Cal Ripken’ Jr.’s consecutive games record. Ripken’s streak should have ended the moment the major league baseball players went on strike on Aug. 12, 1994. The players were not locked out by the owners, rather they walked out. Since Ripken was a part of the players’ association he, too chose not to play, thus ending his consecutive-games streak.”

Uh… First of all, Ripken didn’t miss any games. He played the last game before the strike began in 1994, and was back to play again when games resumed in 1995. His consecutive games streak was uninterrupted because he played in all of them. It’s not like Ripken chose to skip games that went on without him- they didn’t take place.

Not to rehash the 1994 baseball strike, but the players struck to in order to prevent the owners from imposing a salary cap after the season. The writer seems to be criticizing Ripken- nearly two decades after the fact- for not crossing a picket line that didn’t exist and refusing to play in games that weren’t played. He could’ve crossed the picket line in 1995, but… the Orioles didn’t field a team of replacement players, and the strike ended before the season began.

The worst part of all? I could totally see a sports columnist with decades of experience- and a Hall of Fame vote- making that exact same argument.

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