How Kevin Costner Ended Up At The Center Of A Bizarre Conspiracy Theory Involving Cal Ripken Jr.

Baltimore Orioles legend Cal Ripken Jr.

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Former Baltimore Orioles infielder Cal Ripken Jr. is a baseball legend primarily known for being an absolute workhorse who broke Lou Gehrig’s “Ironman” record for the most consecutive games ever played in the MLB.

Kevin Costner, on the other hand, is an actor who played a baseball player in Bull Durham and For Love of the Game in addition to starring in the classic that is Field of Dreams.

At first glance, they may not have much in common, but they’re both at the center of one of the stranger conspiracy theories Major League Baseball has ever produced.

Before we dive into things, here’s a little bit of context.

Cal Ripken Jr. currently holds (and, realistically, will always hold) the record for the most MLB games played in a row, as he suited up for 2,632 of them without missing a start when everything was said and done.

Think about how crazy that is. Could you imagine going to work or school every day for a year—let alone 17 years in a row— without missing a beat? He was the original #Grinder and would make some of these 13-year-olds who wear Elite socks up to their knees look soft

Ripken officially set the record for most consecutive games played on September 6, 1995 and decided to bring the streak to an end close to three years later on September 19th, 1998 to ultimately beat Gehrig’s previous mark by a grand total of 502 games.

Outside of Joe DiMaggio’s hit streak, the consecutive games played streak might be the most unbeatable record in baseball. I don’t think anyone will ever come close for a variety of reasons it’s not really worth diving into—but there’s a longstanding rumor the final number was almost a bit lower thanks to Kevin Costner.

Why people think Kevin Costner was the true cause of the Camden Yards power outage that helped preserve Cal Ripken Jr.’s Ironman streak

Kevin Costner at award show

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The Orioles were supposed to host the Mariners at Camden Yards for a night game on August 14th, 1997, but prior to the contest, something weird happened: the lights at the ballpark wouldn’t turn on due to a technical failure, which resulted in the game being postponed.

At the time, Baltimore had a ton of incentive to keep Ripken’s streak alive. They’d appeared in the playoffs a single time since winning the World Series in 1983, and while they were holding their own with the Yankees in a battle to finish at the top of the AL East, their star player was responsible for a very good chunk of their ticket sales.

As a result, there was some speculation the broken lights were a cover story disguising a hidden agenda linked to Ripken’s streak—and before long, the world was introduced to a conspiracy theory involving Kevin Costner.

It’s not entirely clear how the rumor started, but in the weeks that followed, there was plenty of unsubstantiated chatter that asserted Ripken had walked into his home before the game to discover his wife Kelly in bed with Costner before the two men exchanged blows in an altercation where the infielder was injured to the point where he wouldn’t be able to suit up for the game.

Why was Costner linked to the Ripkens? Well, Cal had met the actor while attending the premiere of Dances with Wolves and the two of them apparently hit it off to the point where Costner warmed up with Ripken ahead of multiple Orioles games before heading into the stands to watch them with Kelly.

How does that result in people assuming Ripken stumbled upon a tryst involving Costner and his wife and wasn’t in any condition to play on the 14th? I don’t know, but I do know you should never underestimate the ability of conspiracy theorists to make some wild connections to support a narrative, and the story was just plausible enough to convince people Ripken had either been hurt or quietly detained by the police before the lights just so happened to malfunction.

A lot of people were also suspicious of the official story because venues like Camden Yard have systems and fail-safes in place to prevent that kind of setback from occurring. Power outages weren’t necessarily unheard of, but the decision to cancel the game while Ripken was still extending his streak seemed fishy to many skeptics who felt like there was an alternate explanation.

It’s obviously worth noting both Ripken and Costner would publically (and, in the latter’s case, forcefully) deny the rumor in the years that followed, and there are plenty of witnesses who saw Cal out on the field warming up for the game as the umpires worked with the Orioles to try to figure out the best solution (he also played in both games of the doubleheader that was scheduled for the next day).

As a result, there’s no real reason to believe it’s true (a sentiment that’s supported by an entire podcast series that looked into the matter) aside from the Fun Side of my brain doing everything in its power to convince me that’s exactly what transpired.