Iron: The Legacy of Cal Ripken Jr. is a one-hour documentary that was made for the 20th anniversary of Ripken’s 2131st baseball game.
After returning from The National Sports Collectors Convention over the weekend and relaxing, I decided to give this documentary a watch on the MLB app. I don’t know if I watched when it first premiered in 2015 but it was a nice way to wind down my night. If anything, it would have been nicer if I didn’t need to blast the volume in order to hear either the narration or interviews. Anyway, I watched the game when it took place in 1995. Back in 2020, ESPN would re-air it on their network because they decided to bring back classic baseball games. It took a few days and weeks to rewatch it but it brought the nostalgia. The celebration still brings me chills to this day. Instead of just doing a curtain call, Ripken trotted around Oriole Park at Camden Yards, shaking hands with everyone.
It was an interesting time to be a baseball fan after going through the strike-shortened 1994 season. The documentary special goes over what fans would lose out on in the owners not reaching an agreement with the MLBPA:
- Cal Ripken Jr. chasing Lou Gehrig’s record of 2,130 consecutive games played
- Tony Gwynn chasing Ted Williams in becoming the first player to hit .400 in decades
- Frank Thomas trying to become the first batting Triple Crown winner since 1967
Suffice it to say, the fans did not really return after baseball resumed in 1995. This would not really happen until Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa, and Ken Griffey Jr. were chasing Roger Maris and his single season home run record of 61 home runs in 1997. But that’s another story. In 1995, it was Cal Ripken giving hope to the game in playing day in and day out. Ripken was in the lineup and playing short stop every single day for 14 seasons. This includes the slumps or playing through injuries. No matter the reason, he would play the game. On September 5, 1995, Ripken broke a record that many thought could never be broken and what a celebration it was.
Ripken’s 2131st game would also air on national television. Moreover, both President Bill Clinton and Vice President Al Gore were in attendance. It is baseball history so of course, they would want to be there. Clinton was in the booth when then-Orioles broadcaster Jon Miller and called the home run. The former president also appears in archival footage. Aside from Ripken, the majority of interviewees are those with ties to the MLB Network. Everyone brings something to the table. Ken Rosenthal and Tom Verducci are some of the premier baseball reporters in the country. Until watching this, I forgot Rosenthal spent 14 years writing for The Baltimore Sun. Billy Ripken brings another advantage, having grown up with Cal and spent a number of seasons playing second base. Their father, Cal Ripken Sr., was a longtime baseball man.
It isn’t an extensive documentary, running just shy of 44 minutes because of commercial breaks. However, it’s more than being just about the night itself because the interviews give us insight into Ripken’s playing ethic as a result of growing up in a baseball family. The elder Ripken spent 36 seasons working for the Baltimore Orioles in some capacity. He was a coach at the MLB level starting in 1976 and would become the team’s manager in 1987. The Orioles would fire Ripken Sr. shortly after the start of the 1988 season and bring in Frank Robinson. Ripken went back to coaching at third base before being removed after the 1992 season. He would not return to the stadium until the night his son broke Lou Gehrig’s record.
If you need a dose of baseball nostalgia and only have 44 minutes, you cannot go wrong with Iron: The Legacy of Cal Ripken Jr.
DIRECTOR: Josh Oshinsky
FEATURING: Cal Ripken Jr., Billy Ripken, Cal Ripken Sr., President Bill Clinton, Tom Verducci, Harold Reynolds, Ken Rosenthal, Johnny Oates, Andrew Zimbalist