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Ripken breaks Kinugasa's streak

KANSAS CITY, Mo., June 14 -- Baltimore Orioles shortstop Cal Ripken, Jr. set the world mark Friday night with his 2,216th consecutive game played, overtaking Japanese player Sachio Kinugasa. Ripken started at shortstop against the Kansas City Royals and passed the Japanese legend, whose streak ran from October 19, 1970 to October 22, 1987 with the Hiroshima Carp of the Japanese Central League. Ripken and Kinugasa exchanged gifts in a pre-game ceremony at home plate and Kinugasa threw out the ceremonial first pitch to Ripken. The crowd gave Ripken a two-minute standing ovation and two curtain calls. Kinugasa has hardly minded seeing his record go by the wayside. In fact, he said having someone with the stature of Ripken break it has only made his achievement more impressive. 'Because of the record I knew about Lou Gehrig and then about Cal Ripken,' Kinugasa said through an interpreter. 'When I was playing I wanted very much to pass Gehrig. Ripken helps me get notice for what I did, because what happens in Japan didn't count too much here.' Kinugasa played with broken ribs, a broken bone in his left wrist, a broken left thumb and a broken bone in his left shoulder during the streak. He was hit by a pitch in his 1,123rd straight game, but, fortuitously, the schedule called for a day off and he had time to heal. The 35-year-old Ripken captivated baseball and others last year when he chased Lou Gehrig's seemingly unbreakable record of 2,130 games.

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He surpassed the New York Yankees' legend on September 6 in front of a soldout crowd at Camden Yards. Ripken has picked up his offensive production this season ever since Baltimore manager Davey Johnson considered moving him to third base last month. The shortstop hit three homers in a game against the Seattle Mariners on May 28 and was named the American League Player of the Week for the period ending June 2. Kinugasa played third base throughout his career. A .270 lifetime hitter with 504 career home runs, he was inducted into the Japanese Baseball Hall of Fame five months ago. It took Kinugasa 23 years to achieve his feat because the regular season in Japan is 130 games, 32 less than the major leagues. Kinugasa retired in 1987 and is now a baseball analyst and a guest lecturer at Hiroshima University in Japan.

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