Thirty years ago today, Earl Weaver wrote Cal Ripken, Jr.'s name into the Orioles starting lineup at third base. He batted eighth, one spot ahead of starting shortstop Lenn Sakata, who is being mentioned on consecutive days for the first time ever in the history of this blog. The next time an O's manager filled out a lineup card without Cal's name on it, it was September 30, 1998 and the skipper was Weaver's ex-pitching coach Ray Miller; Earl had been retired for a dozen years.
It was a Sunday afternoon game in Baltimore, and the sixth-place Orioles were hosting the last-place Blue Jays. So clearly it wasn't the sort of game you would expect to be noteworthy. Rookie Jim Gott was making his fourth career start for the visitors, facing living legend Jim Palmer. The Birds' righthander took the mound for his 482nd career start, but it was not one to remember fondly. The Jays pieced together two first-inning runs on three hits, but the veteran kept them at bay for the rest of the game. In the ninth, Toronto loaded the bases with one out. Palmer got Alfredo Griffin to hit a grounder to Sakata, but the shortstop booted the potential inning-ending double play and a run scored. Damaso Garcia followed with a two-run single to chase 'Cakes from the game. Tippy Martinez retired the next two batters, but another run scored to put the game out of reach at 6-0. Only four of the six runs charged to Palmer were earned, but you're not going to win too many games while allowing nine hits and five walks.
Of course, the silence of the O's bats probably made the Jays' offensive totals moot. Gott held the Baltimore offense to one hit in six-plus innings, a Rick Dempsey single in the fifth. He was effectively wild, mixing four walks with six strikeouts and fanning the side in the second inning. Roy Lee Jackson earned the type of save that you don't see in 2012, delivering three perfect innings in relief to secure Gott's first big league win. The Birds' rookie third baseman went 0-for-2 with a strikeout and a walk and recorded two putouts and one assist. He finished the day with a season batting line of .235/.263/.379, 3 home runs, 20 RBI, and a walk-to-strikeout ratio of 5-to-19. But Weaver stuck by the 21-year-old, and he figured things out and captured the American League Rookie of the Year award with final season stats of .264/.317/.475, 28 home runs, and 93 RBI. There was also a midseason move to shortstop that seemed to work out pretty well.
A really neat postscript to this game: When Cal Ripken, Jr. caught and passed Lou Gehrig in September of 1995 by playing in his 2,130th and 2,131st consecutive games, Jim Gott had already pitched his final career game. He was under contract with the Pirates but on the disabled list, and he made an appearance in Baltimore to present the game ball from May 30, 1982 to Cal. That's a pretty selfless act, considering the personal significance that the game (and the ball) must have had to Gott.