Another O's ironman sees streak end
Club's umpire assistant will attend Hall ceremonies
BALTIMORE -- The last time the Orioles played a game without Ernie Tyler on hand, things were a lot different in the world.
John F. Kennedy was about to become the President. No one had even heard of John, Paul, George and Ringo outside of England. The Internet was just somebody's dream, and Cal Ripken, Jr. wouldn't be born for about 4½ months. And while the words "Ripken" and "The Streak" would eventually be linked in baseball history, Tyler was quietly starting a streak of his own on the first day of the 1960 season.
The man who takes care of the umpires and runs balls out to them during the game took what he did very seriously. So seriously that the umpire's attendant has never missed a game since the Opening Day of that 1960 season. However, all streaks must come to an end, and Tyler's is stopping after tonight's game with the Yankees -- for a very good reason.
The 83-year-old Tyler worked his 3,819th consecutive game Friday (including exhibition, postseason and All-Star Game contests. In the end, 3,769 of those games came in the regular season. But he is stopping his streak to go to Cooperstown and see Ripken be enshrined in the Hall of Fame on Sunday.
Tyler has known Ripken since the former shortstop/third baseman was a teenager. Ripken invited Tyler to come to the ceremonies as his guest. That forces Tyler to miss Saturday and Sunday's games with the Yankees.
"When you know a guy since he was 10 or 11 years old ... and then he grows up to be a tree and a superstar, you feel really good about knowing the man as well as you do," Tyler said. "He has not changed a tiny little bit."
The Orioles held a surprise midgame ceremony Friday, honoring Tyler by telling the fans about his long streak and then putting a banner with the numbers 3,769 in the pit where he stands next to the Orioles dugout. Tyler will be leaving at about 7 a.m. Saturday in a limousine with one of his sons, a daughter-in-law and another person. They'll make the five-hour trip to Cooperstown, and Tyler will get a VIP seat down in front.
"When I'm there, it's going to be emotional," Tyler said. "I'm elated that he would even think of calling us. I was totally surprised. I had no idea or intention of going up there because I had to be here."
Tyler has missed lots of things in his life to be at the ballpark. He's a busy man with 11 children who worked a full-time government job until retiring from that -- over 19 years ago -- while doing the Orioles' job 81 times a year.
Bill Stetka is the Orioles director of media relations and said what many people are thinking this weekend at Camden Yards -- it's going to be unusual to do a game without Tyler there.
"I'm so used to him being here," Stetka said. "I won't know who to ask for tomorrow when I need to get a lineup change."
Tyler's sons, Fred and Jim, are the visiting and home clubhouse managers at the ballpark, and they won't go to Cooperstown -- because they can't and don't want to miss work.
But they understand why their father's streak is ending.
"It will be different ... but he's going to see one of the most historic inductions in the Baseball Hall of Fame," Fred Tyler said. "He's always here when I get here, and pretty much is always here when I leave. It's going to be a little strange."
Ernie Tyler prepared for this, however, rubbing 12 dozen baseballs in the mud and getting them ready for game action. That's what he does every day, and it should take care of the Saturday and Sunday games while Tyler is in Cooperstown.
Still, the idea of missing an Orioles game was tough for Tyler to swallow, even though he'll be seeing a cherished friend have one of the greatest moments of his life. Tyler will just work on starting a new streak when Seattle comes to town Aug. 7.
"It will be weird," Tyler said. "Where in the hell have I been for the last 47 years? I have my cell phone, and I'll be checking up with Freddy and Jimmy to make sure it's going smoothly."
Jeff Seidel is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.