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RIPKEN: HERO WHO TOOK THE DAY OFF

Imagine this: You go to your boss and say you want to do nothing at all today except sit and watch your fellow workers do their jobs. The boss congratulates you, thousands applaud you generously and there are great reams of favorable national publicity. All for doing nothing.

You and everyone else at your workplace cannot do that, but Cal Ripken can -- and did. It happened Sunday when Ripken decided the time had come for him to skip playing in a major league baseball game. His decision ended an amazing display of human durability, dedication, skill and consistency. He had played in 2,632 consecutive major league games, all for the Baltimore Orioles, beginning in 1982. Ripken, 38, told his manager 30 minutes before the game that his team's last home game this season was the right time to end the string.

Even non-fans know that a few years ago -- Sept. 6, 1995, to be exact -- Ripken broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive-game record, one that seemed good for the ages when it was set in 1939. Ripken, his hair getting more gray and scarce, kept going for 501 games past Gehrig.

It's tempting to say Ripken's mark will not be touched. Ever. After all, Albert Belle, next in line with 325 straight games, would need to go to the year 2010 without missing a game to match Ripken.

But who knows? Maybe somewhere in a dusty city field or a green country pasture, there is a little kid who will develop the same durability, dedication, skill and consistency that enabled Cal Ripken to become a hero just by taking a day off. Maybe he's working on it right now.

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