- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 20, 2001

BALTIMORE Cal Ripken's surprise, in-season retirement announcement bore no resemblance to his long-stated intention to avoid any kind of farewell tour. He did not consult any of his close friends on the team, most notably outfielder Brady Anderson. And everyone else on the team, including owner Peter Angelos, learned the news through media reports.
But within that frame of unconventionality, Orioles officials, teammates and fans alike greeted the news with a mixture of relief, awe and appreciation.
"This is a very good thing for him. There are other things he wants to do in his life, and he certainly feels he's ready," said Anderson, who has held a role in many major Ripken baseball decisions, including ending the streak for consecutive games played in 1998. "The disappointing thing to me is that the skills are still there for him. But our friendship isn't ending just our role as teammates."
Ripken's move also rattled the Orioles' front office, forcing it on short notice to deal with the area's largest sports news conference since Michael Jordan's arrival to the Washington Wizards last year, as well as the sale of nearly 25,000 tickets after the announcement. Both the ticket sales and media throngs likely will continue nearly unabated the rest of the season.
"Quite frankly, we haven't had a chance to really work any of this through," said Joe Foss, the Orioles' chief operating officer. "I didn't find any of this out until late [Monday] night. Neither did Mr. Angelos or [manager] Mike Hargrove."
Yesterday, however, marked the 98th anniversary of Lou Gehrig's birth, providing an appropriate symmetry with the late Yankees legend with whom Ripken forever will be linked.
Among the rest of the Orioles, Ripken's news met with relief. After nearly three years of near-constant updates on Ripken's numerous injuries, trips to the disabled list and retirement leanings, the Orioles appear more than ready to move on to a less stressful time and see Ripken enjoy one last hurrah.
"This is the right way for him to do it," second baseman Jerry Hairston said. "Everyone gets the chance to see him one last time."
Until Ripken makes his swan song in September, the Orioles must find a way to keep the national frenzy from getting in the way of the club's youth movement. But Ripken's legendary work ethic will help the team avoid being distracted by the feverish fan following, coaches say.
"Even guys here that have played with Cal for years are still learning things from him, how to carry and conduct themselves. That's maybe the biggest thing we'll miss from [him]," bullpen coach Elrod Hendricks said. "Anyone who was a teammate of his and didn't learn something about how to really play this game simply wasn't paying attention."
The crowd last night at Camden Yards greeted Ripken's first at-bat in the second inning with a long, loud standing ovation. Ripken responded with a weak groundout to short, providing another clue that his timing and sense of mortality might be even better than his Hall of Fame numbers.
"Quite simply, I'm a better baseball man for having been around him," Hargrove said.

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