First and foremost, I just want to let you know that I am a die-hard Cubs fan. I loved the home run chase of 1998, and while I was cheering for Sosa, I was happy to see Big Mac take the all-time single-season homerun crown.\nSome might say that those two brought baseball back from the depths it had sunk itself from the 1994 strike, but I beg to differ. The home run chase was exciting and captivated an entire nation, but nothing brought baseball back from the pits of hell like Cal Ripken, Jr. did when he broke Lou Gehrig's unbreakable record of 2,130 consecutive games.\nThe night the record was broken, I had just come home from playing basketball for what my legs had told me was 12 hours, but my mind knew it was only two. \nAll I wanted to do was take a shower and hit the sack, because 6:30 a.m. and another day of junior high was going to get there faster than I had wanted. My dad had other plans.\n I was shocked when my Dad told me I couldn't go to bed until he said so, because it was usually the other way around. So I sat there in front of the TV, watching two teams I could care less about -- I'm a National League man -- but when my Dad said, "You're never going to see this again," it became important to me, because it was important to him.\nI'll never forget that night. It was one of the few times my Dad and I got to enjoy something together, especially since he worked close to 70 hours a week. My story can sum up how the nation felt on Cal's night. The country had been alienated from its national pastime because it had been away too long. \nBut on that night in Baltimore, baseball once again became important to the country, because it was important to Cal. Ripken is what baseball should be. He brought it back to the nation in its purest form after its most unpure stretch.\nA few of my friends and I were sitting around the television last night, watching Baseball Tonight and doing the same thing Peter Gammons does except getting paid much less -- talking about baseball. When they showed a segment on Ripken's retirement, we began the discussion of who is going to be the next player to spend his entire career with one team like Ripken did.\nWe couldn't come up with an answer.\nWith baseball becoming more of a business than a sport, it's hard pressed to find a player who isn't traded around through the minor leagues as "the player to be named later," or find someone who doesn't have the ego to demand a contract large enough to support a third-world country.\nRipken went out onto the field everyday to play a game he loved. The nation noticed that love and it brought us back to the game that broke our hearts in 1994. Baseball is losing its last class act. \nShow your respect to baseball's savior. Thank you, Cal.
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