Kansas City Rather Ho-Hum About Ripken’s Record
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) _ Barring a last-minute rush, as many as 20,000 empty seats could greet Cal Ripken when he breaks Sachio Kinugasa’s world record for consecutive games played.
To the chagrin of Kansas City officials, Ripken’s latest ironman milestone is shaping up in stark contrast to the balloon-popping, horn-blowing production that attended his long-awaited breaking of
Lou Gehrig’s streak last year in Baltimore. That nationally televised extravaganza drew a celebrity-packed sellout crowd to Camden Yards, including President Clinton and Vice President Gore, and became a baseball showcase.
But Kansas Citians seem to be taking Cal at his word when he says he doesn’t want anybody making a big fuss this time.
``I don’t think it’s really caught on yet,″ said Michael Levy, the Royals’ director of marketing. ``But I’m betting it will pick up, that our walkup Thursday and Friday will be big.″
Despite a vigorous promotion campaign urging fans to come see history in the making, only 20,000-25,000 were expected to file into Kauffman Stadium to watch Ripken’s streak reach 2,216 consecutive games.
Barring rainouts, Ripken on Thursday will tie the mark Kinugasa set with the Hiroshima Carp from 1970 to 1987. He’ll break it on Friday, with Kinugasa on hand along with a large contingent of Japanese media.
`I think the fans will come out. It’s going to have to really catch on the next couple of days,″ Levy said.
The Royals, struggling with lagging attendance since the 1994 strike, have been plugging the event all spring. Ripken and Kinugasa will meet and exchange gifts in a pregame ceremony at home plate on Friday, and Kinugasa will throw out the ceremonial first pitch to Ripken.
Fans who do come will get a certificate proving they were eyewitness to the record-breaking moment.
``We knew before the season started this was coming up,″ said Levy, who’s directed a television, radio and newspaper ad campaign. ``We’ve been praying for no rainouts, looking at the weather where the Orioles play every week almost as closely as we’ve been watching the weather for our own games.
``Cal didn’t want to make a big deal out of this, but he didn’t want to make a big deal out of the last one, and look what happened.
``I understand it’s bigger in Japan than it is here. But interest is picking up. We’re getting calls and faxes every day from people wanting to know how to get tickets.″
One fan planning to come was Hugh Hampton of Overland Park, Kan., a longtime season ticket holder.
``Maybe there will be only be 20,000 or so people here Friday night,″ he said, ``But I guarantee you there’ll be 200,000 who swear they were.″
Levy remained confident interest will swell.
``People are going to say to themselves, `If I don’t get there, I’m going to miss it. I’m going to miss something that I’ll never have an opportunity to see again.′ ″