09/21/2002 00:34 am ET
Bordick automatic breaking record
By Gary Washburn / MLB.com
BALTIMORE -- Fielding a grounder for Mike Bordick has become the equivalent of a Kareem Abdul-Jabbar skyhook or Cal Ripken's name in the lineup.
It's simply an automatic.
So, amidst the amazement of Bordick's Major League record 102-game errorless streak Friday was a sense of expectation. Those close to him, who see him approach pre-game infield drills with childlike eagerness, who watched as he tossed grounders to first base with a full leg brace as he recovered from a fractured kneecap or who applauded his accomplishment in the ninth inning were not surprised.
Amazed and astonished, but not surprised.
"Mike Bordick looks forward to taking grounders like most guys look forward to hitting," Orioles infield coach Sam Perlozzo said. "He's more prepared then any player I have ever been around. His intensity level is so high. He is a professional baseball player, a total professional."
Bordick executed all four of his chances to set the record for shortstops, breaking the streak set by the New York Mets' Rey Ordonez during the 1999 to 2000 seasons. Ironically, Bordick took over for an injured Ordonez in 2000 during his brief stay with the Mets.
The Orioles lost to the Boston Red Sox, 4-2, but that did not stop the 32,648 fans, his teammates and the Red Sox from giving Bordick a standing ovation in the bottom of the ninth inning, a career-defining moment for the 37-year-old who has stuck around because he can catch the ball.
"It's a real special accomplishment," he said afterward to a horde of media. "I am sure I will reflect more on it after the season. There is no such thing as a routine play; every play there is something different. It feels nice to be mentioned as a great defensive shortstop."
Bordick tied the record Thursday in ho-hum fashion, as there were no balls hit in his direction. But Friday, he would be challenged by four balls that were unique but all difficult.
"I tell you what, that play in the ninth inning might have been the best play I made all year. All of a sudden I picked up the bat in the corner of my eye and since I wasn't going to hit me or stick into me, I kept my focus on the ball.
-- Mike Bordick
In the first, he fielded a tricky bouncer from Shea Hillenbrand and backhanded it to second baseman Jerry Hairston to force out the speedy Johnny Damon.
In the fifth, he had to backpedal into shallow left field to nab a pop-up from Trot Nixon. In the seventh, Hillenbrand hit a sinking liner that Bordick swiped just before it hit the dirt.
Karma made certain that Bordick would face one final test, a type of grounder he couldn't replicate in his hours of work before games and in the offseason.
Jason Varitek swung at a B.J. Ryan fastball and it shattered his bat, the ball heading in Bordick's direction followed by the bat, which resembled a boomerang. Bordick stood his ground, focusing on the ball as it violently rolled toward him.
He picked it up, as the bat landed on the grass just feet in front of him. Bordick then made a perfect throw to first for the out. The streak was his.
"I tell you what, that play in the ninth inning might have been the best play I made all year," Bordick said. "All of a sudden I picked up the bat in the corner of my eye and since it wasn't going to hit me or stick into me, I kept my focus on the ball. I just wanted to get rid of it and let Jeff (Conine) do the work."
Bordick celebrated the moment with his father, who made a surprise trip to Camden Yards from his Maine home. The two sipped champagne at his locker as Bordick gleamed with pride.
He admitted it was a humbling moment. He was signed by the A's as a non-drafted free agent in 1986 after first-year scout J.P. Ricciardi watched him in play in the College World Series.
Some scouts called him a roster-filling player, never expected to stick on a Major League roster. So he melted when the Orioles fans, mixed with fans from his native New England, joined the Red Sox players in a loud ovation.
Cheering as vigorously as any was the Red Sox's Nomar Garciaparra, considered one of the new breed of shortstops who can field brilliantly, hit for average and for power.
"It's a tremendous feat," Garciaparra said. "It's a tremendous accomplishment. His peers and everybody respects him totally. I was clapping just like everybody else was."
Bordick is old-school. He is in the mold of Ozzie Smith or former Oriole Mark Belanger, a gritty defender who earns his money with his glove, not bat. He inherited the shortstop job in Baltimore from future Hall of Famer Cal Ripken, whose AL record for errorless games by a shortstop Bordick eclipsed in August.
According to the Orioles' public relations staff, Bordick is second in all-time fielding percentage among shortstops with at least 1,000 games played. Only Cleveland's Omar Vizquel has a higher clip.
"To look across the field and see Nomar Garciaparra tip his hat is very special," Bordick said. "Going out on the top step (of the dugout) was an emotional time. One of the greatest feelings I have ever had. Right now, I am at a loss for words."
Gary Washburn is a reporter for MLB.com and can be reached at
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.