The Streak
The fascinating story of baseball’s most legendary “Iron Men,” Cal Ripken Jr. and Lou Gehrig, who each achieved the coveted and sometimes confounding record of most consecutive games played When Cal Ripken Jr. began his career with the Baltimore Orioles at age twenty-one, he had no idea he’d beat the historic record of 2,130 games played in a row set by Lou Gehrig, the fabled “Iron Horse” of the New York Yankees. When Ripken beat that record by 502 games, the baseball world was floored. Few feats in sports history have generated more acclaim. But the record that Ripken now owns, quite possibly forever, spawns an array of questions. Was his streak or Gehrig’s the more difficult achievement? Who owned the record before Gehrig? When did someone first think it was a good idea to play in so many games without taking a day off?   Through probing research, meticulous analysis, and colorful parallel storytelling, The Streak delves into this impressive but controversial milestone, unraveling Gehrig’s at times unwitting pursuit of that goal and Ripken’s fierce determination to play the game his way, which resulted in his seizing of the record decades later. Along the way Eisenberg dives deep into the history of the record and offers a portrait of the pastime in different eras, going back more than a century.   The question looms: Was it harder for Ripken or Gehrig to play every day for so long? The length of seasons, the number of teams in the major leagues, the inclusion of non-white players, travel, technology, and even media are all part of the equation. Larger than all of this, however, is a book that captures the deeply American appreciation—as seen in the sport itself, its players, and its fans—for that workaday mentality and that desire to be there for the game they love, the job they are paid to do.

The Streak Details

TitleThe Streak
Author
FormatHardcover
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseJul 4th, 2017
PublisherHoughton Mifflin Harcourt
ISBN0544107675
ISBN-139780544107670
Number of pages320 pages
Rating
GenreSports, Baseball, Sports and Games, Nonfiction, History

The Streak Review

  • Lance
    June 7, 2017
    On September 6, 1995, Cal Ripken broke the record for consecutive major league baseball games played. The moment provided the sport with a much-needed boost after a strike wiped out the last six weeks and all of the postseason the previous season. The road to this moment for Ripken, as well as the streak that Lou Gehrig had to set the record broken by Ripken, is chronicled in this well written and well researched book. John Eisenberg, a well-respected sportswriter who covered the Orioles for the On September 6, 1995, Cal Ripken broke the record for consecutive major league baseball games played. The moment provided the sport with a much-needed boost after a strike wiped out the last six weeks and all of the postseason the previous season. The road to this moment for Ripken, as well as the streak that Lou Gehrig had to set the record broken by Ripken, is chronicled in this well written and well researched book. John Eisenberg, a well-respected sportswriter who covered the Orioles for the Baltimore Sun, provides insight into Ripken that only one who covered him for most of career would know. Some of the details can give insight into Ripken’s competitive streak and fury - such as his not-so-sterling reputation among umpires - and his unwillingness to keep the streak alive through actions such as pinch-hitting or starting a game in the field and being removed for a pinch hitter before his first at-bat. These two actions are ways that some other players kept similar streaks alive and many of those players who had such streaks are discussed in the book as well. While not as lengthy as the sections on the two main players of Ripken and Gehrig, the information that the reader will gain on other players who had long streaks such as Everett Scott, Billy Williams and Steve Garvey will be valuable as well. Also, the sections on Gehrig illustrate the detail with which Eisenberg writes as the reader will believe that he covered Gehrig for a newspaper beat as well as Ripken. Those passages were just as informative for a reader as those on Ripken.Overall, this book was a very interesting one to read. The chapters alternated between Ripken, Gehrig and the other “ironmen” which made it a bit of challenge to read for me as that resulted in choppiness for me. But that issue was very minor in the overall appraisal of the book and it was one that any baseball fan will enjoy reading. I wish to thank Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for providing a copy of the book via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.http://sportsbookguy.blogspot.com/201...
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  • Agatha Donkar
    July 24, 2017
    Ah, this was so great. Not sure if it's for a baseball fan who isn't an Orioles fan, but probably it is - it's thoroughly well-researched and perfectly structured, interspersing chapters about Cal's pursuit of the record with those who set records before and chased them after Gehrig, along with of course plenty of good stuff about Gehrig himself. Eisenberg is a longtime Orioles beat writer for the Baltimore Sun, and he wrote this with lots of genuine affection and genuine smarts.I did learn from Ah, this was so great. Not sure if it's for a baseball fan who isn't an Orioles fan, but probably it is - it's thoroughly well-researched and perfectly structured, interspersing chapters about Cal's pursuit of the record with those who set records before and chased them after Gehrig, along with of course plenty of good stuff about Gehrig himself. Eisenberg is a longtime Orioles beat writer for the Baltimore Sun, and he wrote this with lots of genuine affection and genuine smarts.I did learn from this that Buster Olney and Bill Simmons are the only two baseball fans on the planet who think Cal Ripken was a selfish jerk, and also I learned that Steve Garvey was a stand up dude. Previously I only hated Simmons, and had no opinion on Garvey, so congrats, Buster Olney, for being voted garbage based on this book, instead of being uplifted into "that's a good guy" status like Garvey.
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  • Allen Adams
    July 5, 2017
    http://www.themaineedge.com/sports/th...No American professional sport is as enamored of its own history as baseball. The combination of the statistical and the anecdotal provides a wide-ranging record that allows lovers of the game to find the connections with the strongest personal resonance.Baseball loves its records – and it particularly loves its records that it perceives as unbreakable. No one is ever again going to win 511 games in a career like Cy Young did; the game has changed too much http://www.themaineedge.com/sports/th...No American professional sport is as enamored of its own history as baseball. The combination of the statistical and the anecdotal provides a wide-ranging record that allows lovers of the game to find the connections with the strongest personal resonance.Baseball loves its records – and it particularly loves its records that it perceives as unbreakable. No one is ever again going to win 511 games in a career like Cy Young did; the game has changed too much. The likelihood of someone proving able to match Joe DiMaggio’s 56-game hitting streak or Rickey Henderson’s 130 steals in a season is slim; while the skill sets still exist, the odds are overwhelmingly against such feats being matched.But somewhere in between, in the central overlap of the Venn diagram of skill and durability, is a record that consists solely of showing up.Veteran sportswriter John Eisenberg explores that record – most consecutive games played – in his new book “The Streak: Lou Gehrig, Cal Ripken Jr., and Baseball’s Most Historic Record” (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $26). It’s a thorough look at two men who became celebrated “Iron Men” for their single-minded devotion to the game they loved; incredibly talented ballplayers who nevertheless wound up defined by the fact that they refused to take a day off.For decades, the number 2,130 had special, almost talismanic meaning for fans of baseball history. That was the number of consecutive games in which New York Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig played; from June 1, 1925 through April 30 of 1939, Gehrig played in every single Yankees game. His streak came to an end due to illness – an illness that was soon diagnosed as amyotrophic later sclerosis (ALS) and would ultimately become known by the name of the famous athlete felled by it.While this kind of streak wasn’t always a big deal – the man Gehrig passed was Everett Scott, whose 1,307-game run was viewed as more of a curiosity than anything – after Gehrig, it entered into fandom’s consciousness in a real way. But while a handful of players put together impressive runs in subsequent decades – Billy Williams managed over 1,100 in the 1960s; Steve Garvey got as far as 1,207 before injury felled him in 1983 – no one ever put forth a real challenge to the Iron Horse.And then came Cal Ripken Jr.Ripken was a rookie, a baseball legacy kid who was talented but still raw when he came up to the Baltimore Orioles in the early 1980s to play shortstop. A big guy who redefined the possible physical attributes of his position, he hardly seemed a candidate to make a run at Gehrig. But starting on May 30, 1982, Ripken simply never stopped playing. Through injuries and labor stoppages and slumps and whatever else you like, he never stopped playing.In 1995, Ripken helped reinvigorate a sport still reeling from a strike, passing Gehrig on September 6 when he played in his 2,131st straight game. He’d go on to tack on 500 more for good measure, finally bringing the streak to a close in September of 1998.“The Streak” masterfully weaves together these two narratives, bringing the journeys of both men into sharp individual focus while also finding ways to juxtapose them. Both men were legendary talents, Hall of Fame players whose production places them in the upper echelon of all-timers. And yet, both of their legacies are defined by these streaks. Their greatness would not have been lessened if either had taken the occasional day off; indeed, many argued that the streaks had a negative impact on both individual and team success.Yet there’s something relatable about this particular record, something that allows the common fan to connect in a way that other records preclude. Because, at its core, this record is about doing your job. It’s about doing what you do to the best of your abilities even when circumstances might not be ideal for doing so. We all go to work at something less than our best sometimes; that’s what Gehrig and Ripken did. We might not be able to hit a ball 500 feet or throw it 100 miles per hour, but we can show up to work every day.Eisenberg was a Baltimore sportswriter during Ripken’s streak, so he’s certainly close to the story on that end. However, Gehrig is also meticulously covered – the degree of research put forth throughout is astounding. The two tales are laid out in parallel, moving back and forth between the stories as each man continues his streak through all manner of obstacles large and small.While Gehrig and Ripken are the two Ironmen that serve as the book’s focus, “The Streak” also spends some time with a few players who had notable stretches of their own. The aforementioned Scott, Williams and Garvey get some run. So do old-time guys like George Pinkney and Joe Sewell, along with some mid-century guys like Stan Musial and more recent streakers like Miguel Tejada and Prince Fielder. Of course, Gehrig and Ripken remain the stars of the show.“The Streak” is a phenomenal read for anyone interested in baseball history. These streaks are indelible highlights in the game’s long and winding story, while Gehrig and Ripken are players without whom that story could never be fully told. Well-researched and engagingly-written, this book will captivate fans of our national pastime.
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  • Justin
    July 14, 2017
    There are some seriously dry sections (Ripken's story and approach is pretty well known, and even Eisenberg's access and insight doesn't change that) and his reporter's background weighs a little on his prose at times. His description of the record-breaking night is a marvelous read, though.Eisenberg's at his best filling out the history. He interweaves three lines of narrative: Ripken, Gehrig, and the other ironmen with top streaks. The structure works wonderfully, and his tales of baseball's e There are some seriously dry sections (Ripken's story and approach is pretty well known, and even Eisenberg's access and insight doesn't change that) and his reporter's background weighs a little on his prose at times. His description of the record-breaking night is a marvelous read, though.Eisenberg's at his best filling out the history. He interweaves three lines of narrative: Ripken, Gehrig, and the other ironmen with top streaks. The structure works wonderfully, and his tales of baseball's early players are the highlights of the book. As he moves to modern ironmen like Steve Garvey, his interviews open up more of the psychology of playing every day.His chapter on the wisdom of daily play could have gone a little deeper into the subject (and his newly acquired SABR membership might have been helpful here), but it's a good overview of the debate.The book should satisfy its target audience, baseball fans serious enough to want to look into The Streak. There aren't the non-baseball or cultural issues or bizarre biographies that might engage a more casual fan, but that's not the goal, and there's plenty of meat here for those interested in the topic.[Based on a NetGalley advance copy.]
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  • Martin
    March 18, 2017
    So many baseball records that we notice are about being hot for a period of time. Usually at the plate. Cal Ripken's breaking, shattering of Lou Gerhig's consecutive game streak is a record that will (probably) never be broken. And I will always remember his running around the field the night be surpassed Lou Gerhig. Because it is about the nature of consecutive game streaks in baseball history, not just Gerhig and Rpken, this is one of the better baseball books I've read. Recommended for fans o So many baseball records that we notice are about being hot for a period of time. Usually at the plate. Cal Ripken's breaking, shattering of Lou Gerhig's consecutive game streak is a record that will (probably) never be broken. And I will always remember his running around the field the night be surpassed Lou Gerhig. Because it is about the nature of consecutive game streaks in baseball history, not just Gerhig and Rpken, this is one of the better baseball books I've read. Recommended for fans of the sport, but also for casual readers as well.
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