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Talking Baseball with Cal Ripken Jr.

When retired Baltimore Oriole star Cal Ripken Jr. heard that O's slugger Rafael Palmeiro had tested positive for steroids, he couldn't quite bring himself to believe it. Now, Ripken says, "the reality hits you that it could very well be the truth. But I was hoping that it would be something that could explain it. And the longer it goes, the more it seems like there won't be [an explanation]."

Steroid scandals have loomed large over Major League Baseball this season, but Ripken is a reminder of the sport's capacity to lift the nation's spirits.

Ten years ago, baseball was struggling to recover from a long strike that canceled the 1994 World Series and left many fans dispirited. Then attention focused on a remarkable streak by the Orioles' Ripken, who many believe kept baseball alive after the strike year. On Sept. 6, 1995, Ripken played his 2,131st consecutive game, smashing through Lou Gehrig's record for reliability. The mark had seemed unassailable in an era when few players manage to play all 162 games in a given season.

Ripken retired in 2001 but he maintains strong connections to baseball: He owns a minor league team, runs a kids league and regularly attends O's games.

And he says he's perfectly happy being a spectator. "Quite frankly, I don't miss standing in the box or standing on the field playing," he says.

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