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Notes: Ripken reminisces on Classic

Notes: Ripken reminisces on Classic

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SAN FRANCISCO -- During the latter half of his run of 19 All-Star Games, Cal Ripken Jr. contributed to the 10-year unbeaten streak the American League took into Tuesday night's 78th renewal.

But when Ripken made his Midsummer Classic debut in 1983, the National League was still in the midst of its own dominant era of winning 21 of 23 All-Star Games.

Considering himself just another outside spectator now, Ripken isn't privy to clubhouse attitudes toward the game and doesn't know whether there is any validity to suspicions that winning is no longer paramount.

But he does remember that his All-Star managers were serious about showing up the other league.

"We'd have the pregame meeting, and the manager would start off by congratulating everyone for being on the team," Ripken recalled. "Then he'd say, 'I apologize in advance if I don't get you in the game. But I'm here to win.'

"And he'd add, 'Those guys in the other room think that they're better, and we're out to prove that they're not.'"

Kid Kaline: Here as an official part of Detroit's All-Star party for the first time since 1980, when he was the AL's honorary captain in recognition of his Hall of Fame induction that summer, Tigers great Al Kaline subscribes to the notion that the modern Classic is more showcase than competition.

"So many activities now," said Kaline, who appeared in 15 All-Star Games as a player. "Everything's so much, and actually better, too.

"Of course, this is a great city to come to. You can do so much. We've had a great time. They've done a great job here in San Francisco organizing this thing. Everything's not going to run 100 percent, as you know, but it's great. It's huge, so much bigger than you can imagine from back in my day."

Silenced Hammer: Ran into Harmon Killebrew strolling the streets of San Francisco all by his lonesome. Amid the spectacle of the new Home Run Derby, Killebrew was in town doing promotional work for the DVD release of the original, 1959 canned TV show, "Home Run Derby."

All-Star Game Coverage

Baseball's original Hammer retired in 1975 with 573 homers -- all but 14 for the Washington Senators-Minnesota Twins -- which at the time ranked fifth all-time. Now, he sits in ninth place, in range of several more active players.

"I keep going the wrong way," Killebrew said. "I'll have to come back and hit a few more."

Post-Derby depression? Vladimir Guerrero and Alex Rios -- who formed the first all-AL Derby finals since 1998, when Seattle's Ken Griffey Jr. and Jeromy Burnitz of the Brewers (then in the AL Central) squared off -- shouldn't be overly concerned about the competition fouling up their distance swings.

Despite some disturbing evidence to the contrary, there is no historical proof of a Derby downer. Yes, Bobby Abreu has hit a total of 26 homers in the two years since his 2005 explosion. And after being a 2006 finalist, David Wright went from 20 homers in the first half to six in the second.

But that's as far back as the spiral goes. Rios pulled into the break with 17 homers, and Guerrero entered with 14.

Torii tribute: Twins outfielder Torii Hunter regaled the media at Monday afternoon's mixer in a black blazer with a gold-hyena emblem on the right breast and the legend, "Always prey on the weakest link."

A fan of the game show? Hardly; an admirer of a predecessor as Minnesota center fielder, Kirby Puckett, who would encourage teammates to "play like hyenas."

Etcetera: While Ivan Rodriguez's 14th All-Star appearance as a catcher only tied the record held by Yogi Berra, his 12th start was a new record, topping Berra's 11. ... Boston lefty reliever Hideki Okajima, the first rookie winner of the online Monster All-Star Final Vote, is the only first-year player among this year's 64 All-Stars. ... Devil Rays outfielder Carl Crawford is the first Tampa Bay player ever to make multiple All-Star appearances; he was also a member of the AL squad in 2004.

Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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