Cal Ripken: This Is My Last Year

Orioles' Cal Ripken Jr. gets hit 3,000th career hit, a single to center in the seventh inning. twins
Cal Ripken, a fixture with the Baltimore Orioles since winning American League rookie of the year honors in 1982, who played in more consecutive games than anyone in baseball history, will retire at the end of the 2001 season.

Ripken, who turns 41 in August, said he wants to remain involved in baseball at several levels, and spend time with his family.

"Going into the season, I didn't know where things were going to go - but in the last couple of weeks it dawned on me ... Yes, this is my last year," said Ripken, who was not in an Orioles uniform when he met reporters Tuesday, choosing instead to wear a blue polo shirt. He appeared at a Baltimore news conference with his wife Kelly.

Ripken Milestones
  • 1981: Ripken breaks into the major leagues on Aug. 10.
  • 1982: Voted rookie of the year.
  • 1983: Voted American League's most valuable player on the World Series champion Orioles by batting .318 with 27 home runs and 211 hits.
  • 1984: Hits for the cycle in Texas on May 6, becoming the first Oriole to do so since Brooks Robinson in 1960.
  • 1988: Endured 21 losses to start the year and watched his father, Cal Ripken Sr., get fired as the Orioles' manager a week into the season.
  • 1990: Made just three errors in 161 games at shortstop.
  • 1991: Voted American League's most valuable player for a second time by batting .323 with 34 home runs and 210 hits. In the field, he made 11 errors in 162 games.
  • 1995: Played in his 2,131st consecutive game; the Iron Man outlasted the Iron Horse as Ripken broke Gehrig's record.
  • 1999: Along with Ernie Banks of the Chicago Cubs, was named as a shortstop for baseball's "All-Century" team.
  • 2000: Played in his 18th straight All-Star game.
  • Ripken, who grew up a short drive north of Baltimore in Aberdeen, Md., and who rooted for the Orioles of Brooks Robinson and Boog Powell growing up, won his first and only World Series with Baltimore in 1983. His team came close many times since then, but never repeated, and also endured a 21-game losing streak to start the 1988 season.

    But as far as streaks go, Ripken has another, more historical one to his name: At one of the game's most demanding positions – shortstop – he played in 2,632 straight games from May 30, 1982 tSept. 20, 1998, before finally sitting one out. The previous record-holder, Lou Gehrig of the New York Yankees, who played in 2,130 straight games, was a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer. Ripken broke Gehrig's record on Sept. 6, 1995.

    This year, coming off back surgery, Ripken, who also cracked a rib in spring training, was reduced to a part-time player by Baltimore's no-nonsense manager, Mike Hargrove, who was hired to bring the team back to respectability, Ripken said he did not want to hinder the rebuilding process in 2002.

    With a win Monday night in Toronto, the Orioles, who have fielded a curious combination of talented youth and older veterans, moved into third place in the AL East. The team, after three disappointing seasons, is hoping to recast itself as a young-and-hungry playoff contender, rather than a high-priced cast of stars.

    When Ripken was benched earlier this season, it was clear he was not happy with the decision. But the team's search for a new third baseman has gone on uninterrupted, with recent rumors of a possible play for Philadelphia's talented Scott Rolen. The team's desire to move on clearly had an effect on Ripken, who said he was mulling the decision for several months.

    Ripken's desire to spend more time with his family and to further involve himself in a youth baseball facility in his hometown were also factors.

    Ripken agonized over the decision, which he initially arrived at weeks ago. But he delayed making an announcement, just in case he decided to change his mind.

    Ripken    (AP)SIZE>
    "I can't tell you when the Orioles became very important to me, because I can't remember that far back," Ripken said Tuesday, calling his career "ideal," because he stayed with the same team and remains active in the local community.

    On the field, however, things weren't as rosy in recent weeks. Ripken's failure to lift his batting average over .220 solidified his conviction that he was doing the right thing.

    Ripken is hitting just .210 so far this year, with four homers and 25 RBIs. He has seen his playing time reduced as the Orioles trot out young players they hope someday will carry the team back into the playoffs in the talent-laden American League East.

    Ripken's final chance to play at home would be Sept. 23 against the New York Yankees. The Orioles finish the season Sept. 30 at Yankee Stadium.

    "He is both a complete ballplayer and a complete person," said Orioles owner Peter Angelos in a statement.

    By Pete Brush.
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