Wednesday, May 08, 2013

The Greatest Season Ever?

Cal Ripken, Jr., in 1991.

In 1991, Ripken had what may have been the greatest season ever in the history of baseball. One must go back almost 100 years to find valid comparisons.

Ripken turned 31 years old that summer. He had already reinvented the shortstop position, transforming it from a pure defensive position into an offensive-and-defensive power position. The game of baseball has never been the same since.

Ripken had the greatest defensive season ever in 1991—the only genuine competition comes from Ripken himself and his 1990 season—and yet Ripken’s offensive statistics in 1991 were staggering, too. His season was so phenomenal that, at season’s end, Ripken was awarded Major League Baseball’s MVP, the second time in his career Ripken won the award (he had first been honored with MVP in 1983).

That anyone at age 31 can even PLAY shortstop (the most exposed position on the field) is remarkable. That someone at age 31 can play shortstop at so high a level is historic.

In addition to capturing the 1991 MVP, Ripken also won the 1991 Gold Glove Award, the 1991 Louisville Slugger Award and was named MVP of the 1991 All Star Game. Amazingly, Ripken also won the Home Run Derby that season. That such a long string of awards, offensive and defensive, was conferred—deservedly—on one player was unprecedented.

Things really do not get any better than Cal Ripken in 1991.

Yet, in 1995, things were to get better still . . .


  1. Well, I remember another amazing 31-year-old's AL MVP season: Rod Carew in 1977. He was batting well over .400 at the end of June. That year I attended the game with the old Met's all-time attendance record, a magical, sunny day when the Twins beat the White Sox 19-12, Glenn Adams set the team single-game RBI record (8) and Carew passed .400. Best game ever. Here's and Reusse article that mentions it:

  2. Thanks for the interesting news story. Carew was before my time.

    But I was fourteen the summer Ripken broke Lou Gehrig’s unbreakable record, and I will never forget that night.

    I have unmeasured respect for Ripken. No other athlete with such a high public profile has ever carried himself so well. Everyone that knows Ripken on a personal level offers nothing but the highest praise—and his son and his daughter turned out beautifully, which has to say something about Ripken as a parent and as a human being.

    Ripken does incredible work for charitable causes, tirelessly, but he does it all very quietly. He established numerous charitable foundations for various causes, yet—unlike the Date Nuts—he named none of them after himself (although he did name one after his father and another after his wife, both nice gestures, I thought).