- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 18, 2001

BOSTON Only one week ago, Baltimore Orioles manager Mike Hargrove was defending himself for not playing retiring star Cal Ripken every day despite the pleas of fans on the road who want to catch one last glimpse of the Iron Man. He even went so far as to say, "There are no guarantees in this life, much less that Cal's going to play every day."
But after a brilliant homestand on which he went 10-for-17 with two home runs, and with the help of a couple timely off days, Ripken is practically forcing his manager to play him every night.
Ripken, batting a robust .350 over his last 45 games entering last night's series opener against the Boston Red Sox, was in the starting lineup for the eighth straight time three games more than his previous season-high for consecutive starts. It certainly helped that last Friday's home game against the Red Sox (one Ripken was not originally going to start) was rained out and that the Orioles enjoyed a scheduled off day Monday.
That said, Ripken's recent offensive surge has made his presence in the Baltimore lineup as close to a necessity as you can get.
"Cal's going to play as much as Cal can play," Hargrove said. "We're a much better team with him in the lineup than we are without him in the lineup right now. But I don't think we have anyone in the lineup right now that's indispensable."
Ripken's chances of extending his streak through the weekend appear unlikely, with the Orioles playing at 5 p.m. today following last night's game and at 1 p.m. tomorrow.

Grover on Jimy
Having been unceremoniously fired by the Cleveland Indians only days after his team was eliminated from the 1999 American League playoffs, Mike Hargrove can relate to what ex-Red Sox manager Jimy Williams is going through right now. Boston general manager Dan Duquette fired Williams on Thursday although his team was 12 games over .500 and trailed Oakland by two games for the American League wild card.
"At least [the Indians] waited until the end of the season with me," Hargrove said. "When I heard about [Williams' firing], I was totally shocked. I hadn't heard anything about that even being contemplated. And with the injuries they've had … I thought Jimy did a great job, I really do."
With the Red Sox's shakeup, Hargrove (who has been in Baltimore less than two years) is now the second-most tenured manager in the AL East, trailing only the New York Yankees' Joe Torre.

Team reaches 3 million
The Orioles announced that they have sold more than 3 million tickets for the season, the seventh straight year they have surpassed that mark.
Through 61 home dates, the team has drawn 2,308,913, an average of 37,851. A total of about 150,000 tickets are left for Baltimore's 19 remaining home games (due to the July 18 train derailment, the team will play only 80 at home this season).
Ripken's pending retirement has had a direct effect on ticket sales. In 25 games at Camden Yards since he made his announcement, the Orioles have averaged 41,348, about 7,000 more than they had been drawing to that point. That margin figures to increase in coming weeks, with huge crowds anticipated for Ripken's final games.
Baltimore's final home series Sept. 21-23 against the Yankees is sold out, and only a handful of tickets remain for the Sept. 14-16 series with the Red Sox.


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