Matthew Kory is a baseball writer whose work has appeared across the internet as well as in multiple Baseball Prospectus annuals. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife, two sons, and two cats where he subjects them all to Red Sox baseball and poop jokes in equal measure.
Cal Ripken was 6 feet, 4 inches tall. That made him much larger than most shortstops of his time, who were like hummingbirds—small, twitchy, and designed for speed and quickness. Shortstops were your prototypical defense-first bat handlers, guys who hit second in a lineup because, the thought process went, they could move the leadoff hitter into scoring position. That, plus good defense, and there [wipes hands]—you’ve solved the shortstop issue.
In the baseball world, July 8, 1994, was nothing special. It lived but 24 hours and then, like most days, disappeared as though it had never existed. Except, that wasn’t true for Jeff Ballard. That Friday was the last he would ever pitch in a Major League game. Wearing Pirates black, Ballard faced the Reds and gave, if you’ve ever looked at Jeff Ballard’s career numbers, a predictable performance: four runs in two innings, walking one and striking out one.