- The Washington Times - Friday, October 5, 2001

BALTIMORE The three-day celebration that is Cal Ripken's final series as a Baltimore Oriole began last night with continued adoration from all who step into Camden Yards and the abrupt conclusion of the longest offensive slump of the retiring star's career.
Buoyed by the energy of 43,302 spectators pleading for a hit, Ripken drilled a single off the glove of Boston third baseman Shea Hillenbrand in the fifth inning of the Orioles' 5-4 loss to the Red Sox, snapping an 0-for-33 streak that spanned nine days.
The hit, a legitimate one that grazed Hillenbrand's outstretched glove before carrying into left field, had little bearing on the outcome. Chris Stynes' three-run homer off reliever John Wasdin in the seventh inning, giving Boston the lead for the first time, was the highlight of the night.
Clearly, though, all attention surrounding this team over the past two weeks (and most certainly over these last three days of the season) is focused squarely on the broad shoulders of its 41-year-old third baseman, whose every move is subject to an outpouring of love.
Ripken's name is mentioned in the starting lineups; fans cheer. Ripken tributes are shown on the video screen, including several from opposing players and managers; fans cheer louder. Ripken's high foul ball is dropped by Boston catcher Scott Hatteberg; the place goes nuts.
"We've been on the road, and he's gotten standing ovations after strikeouts," Jeff Conine said. "It's just the fans showing their appreciation for his career and for what he's done, not only for the game but also for America. He's an icon that deserves to be recognized."
No ovation last night figured to be louder or lengthier, however, than the one bestowed upon the Iron Man when his fifth-inning liner off Hideo Nomo fell in for a single, Ripken's first clean hit since Tuesday of last week at Fenway Park.
He came close in his first at-bat of the night, when he belted the first pitch he saw from Nomo (13-10) right at left fielder Chris Stynes for an out, yet another hard-hit ball that failed to land safely and raised his career-worst hitting slump to 33 at-bats.
Ripken kept on hacking against Nomo who tossed a no-hitter in Baltimore on April 4 in his next plate appearance, pulling a 1-0 fastball down the third-base line and just out of Hillenbrand's grasp.
"The last three days, he's hit the ball hard, at least twice a game," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. "I thought he hit the ball hard enough that it was completely by Hillenbrand. I hope this breaks it up and Cal can get hits the way we're all used to seeing him doing."
Ripken had a chance to be an even bigger hero when he stepped to the plate with one out in the bottom of the ninth and the Orioles trailing by a run. With the crowd on its feet trying to coax one last memorable moment out of him, Ripken struck out swinging on three pitches against Boston closer Ugueth Urbina.
The rest of the evening was fairly uneventful for the guest of honor, who now faces a day-night doubleheader today and tomorrow night's finale at Camden Yards before his career is complete. He is expected to be in the starting lineup for each remaining game, which would give him 3,001 games for his career seventh on the all-time list.
Anyone who worried that tomorrow's game would actually be the Orioles' second-to-last and that a makeup for last Sunday's 15-inning tie at Yankee Stadium would need to be played Monday in New York can now rest easy. The Cleveland Indians' loss yesterday assured the Yankees of the American League's second-best record and negated any need for the makeup.
The Orioles jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first inning. Tim Raines Jr., making his third straight start in center field and his first alongside father Tim Raines Sr., who manned left field, singled to lead things off, stole second and advanced to third on a wild pitch. Raines Jr. scored on a sacrifice fly by Conine. Chris Richard followed with a groundout to shortstop that scored Luis Matos.

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