Cal Ripken Jr., the Baltimore Orioles baseball player who holds the Major League record for playing in 2,632 consecutive games, took the field for the final time Saturday night, capping his illustrious 21-year career.
Cal Ripken had announced in mid-June that this would be his last season, and throughout his final weeks fans, players, managers and team owners have shown the 42-year-old third baseman how much they have appreciated his contribution to baseball during the past two decades.
But nowhere was that more apparent than here in Baltimore where he has played his entire career. His final night was filled with festivities, both before and after the game, a 5-1 loss to the Boston Red Sox.
The mayor of this city announced that Lee Street in downtown Baltimore is being renamed "Ripken Way." Ripken was presented with a framed Orioles' jersey with his number eight, which is being retired. Among other things, he was also presented a sculpture of his number eight made of bricks from the Orioles' old stadium, that was torn down.
Ripken's teammates from his first game as a starter for Baltimore in 1981 suited up in uniforms to greet Cal on the field. Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig was in attendance, calling Ripken one of the greatest players of our generation. And former President Bill Clinton made a surprise appearance, saying he admired Ripken for his loyalty, dignity and skill.
Ripken was truly moved by all of the affection shown to him as he concluded his career, saying "it's not a bad thing. I'm ready. Believe me I'm ready. But it doesn't lessen the feelings any. And I think those are the good feelings ... but they are strong," said Ripkin.
Cal Ripken was known as the "Iron Man," for his incredible appearance in a streak of 2,632 consecutive games that smashed the old record of 2,130 held by New York Yankees' legend Lou Gehrig. But he will also be remembered for redefining the position of shortstop, which he played for most of his career. He proved a big man with power could have the range and skill to play there, when previously the position was manned by smaller players who were excellent fielders but usually light hitters.
In his farewell news conference after the game, Ripken was joined by his wife, son and daughter. His son Ryan said he was happy that his father would now be able to spend more time with him, teaching him all about baseball.