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'Ball Boy' Beats Ripken's Record - 2002-04-17

When people think of Major League Baseball's Baltimore Orioles, they often think of Cal Ripken Jr., baseball's "Iron Man," who played a record 2,632 consecutive games. But his streak pales in comparison to the streak held by Ernie Tyler, a man who saw all of Ripken's home games.

Ernie Tyler has not missed being on the field at an Orioles' home game in 42 years. When the 2002 season opened at Camden Yards earlier this month, it was his 3,363 consecutive game, 731 more than Ripken's record.

"Mine was not as tough as his," he said. "Mine took 40 years, he did his in half that time. As he said, 'now we know who the real Iron Man is.'"

On opening day, Ernie took his place behind home plate, but he is not the catcher. He stands near the backstop and is in charge of making sure the umpire has plenty of fresh baseballs. He's also responsible for preparing the balls before the game, rubbing off the glossy finish with special mud from the bottom of the Delaware River.

"The ball, if you notice, has a real wax, you can feel it, it is waxy," he said. "And you gotta take it off. If you do not, the pitcher will have trouble controlling it. It slides out of your hand like that." Ernie Tyler does not say how old he is or how long he will continue his streak of working at Baltimore Orioles home games. "I'm not 16 anymore," he said.