Rosenthal endorsed Roberto Alomar as the best player he's ever covered, but he said Ripken was the most consistent defensive player he's ever seen. Furthermore, he said the icon's first-ballot election was completely appropriate."I do believe the first ballot should be for the very, very best -- but if I think a player is a Hall of Famer, I won't wait to vote for him," he said. "For example, I've voted for Andre Dawson from the moment he got on the ballot. Is he at the level of Ripken or [fellow inductee Tony] Gwynn? No. "He was a great representative for the game both in the way he played and the way he conducted himself." Jim Henneman, who worked the baseball beat for 15 years with the Baltimore News-American and the Baltimore Sun before becoming an official scorer, said that Ripken's appeal came from his attention to detail and his competitive drive. "There were better players. I think Eddie Murray was a better player," he said. "Frank Robinson was a better player, and I don't think there's a question about that. I think Cal would be the first guy to tell you that. Cal just did everything good. I might say he's the most complete player I covered. But to say he was the best, he probably wasn't." But there's still the matter of Ripken's icon status in Baltimore, where he served as the face of the franchise for two decades and still can be seen as a prominent pitchman. Schmuck compared Ripken to one of the player's boyhood idols -- Brooks Robinson, who was the ever-present Oriole long before No. 8 arrived on the scene. "It's a very, very similar situation, although Brooks doesn't quite have the same power numbers and doesn't have Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games record," said Schmuck. "But this guy was Mr. Oriole, and then Cal was Mr. Oriole. "There are similarities and there are differences, but Baltimore should be amazingly grateful and proud that they've had two guys like this. Most cities have never had one." Perhaps nobody knows the power of Ripken's enduring legacy better than Rosenthal, the subject of an apocryphal story designed to scare sportswriters and their interns. Legend has it that after Rosenthal wrote an article Ripken didn't like, the shortstop intentionally launched a foul ball into the press box that destroyed his laptop. Tour guides in Camden Yards still tell the tale to this day, and Rosenthal can confirm at least part of it. "The story is true, but in the times I've heard it, it's been embellished. The tour guides make it sound like he was aiming for my laptop -- sorry, not even Cal is that good!" he said. "I had indeed written something that he didn't like shortly before that. I can't remember exactly what it was -- something about how the streak needed to end, most likely. I wrote columns about that a few times after he broke the record. "I was sitting where the Sun guys still sit now, and I had my head down when he hit the foul ball. The laptop, if I recall correctly, bounced off the wall of the second row, then hit the ground. I borrowed [a peer's] laptop and made deadline, leading with the smashed laptop. I remember writing jokingly, 'I was just between typing the words 'sit' and 'down.'"
Spencer Fordin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.