- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 7, 2001

BALTIMORE On an emotional and historic evening that saw franchise icon Cal Ripken bid baseball adieu, the Baltimore Orioles ended their season the same way they began it in flux.
Boston's Dante Bichette and Jose Offerman each hit two-run homers, David Cone pitched a one-run gem and Ripken went hitless as the Red Sox defeated the Orioles 5-1 before 48,807 last night at Camden Yards.
With the loss, the retooling, youth-laden Orioles concluded the year a disappointing but unsurprising 63-98, the club's worst finish since a 107-loss campaign in 1988.
"It's similar to the situation we had with the ballclubs in Cleveland in the early and mid-1990s," said Baltimore manager Mike Hargrove, who helped build the moribund Indians into perennial contenders. "I've tried to draw from that experience in a number of instances to get over the rough spots."
Last night, however, the Orioles were less concerned with looking back on the year than with saying goodbye to Ripken, 41, who finished his 21st and final season by playing in his 3,001st contest.
Before the game, Ripken was honored in an hour-long on-field ceremony that featured celebratory speeches, a Jumbotron video tribute and the presentation of numerous retirement gifts, including a red brick, warehouse-esque No. 8 and a bronze plaque in the Orioles' dugout.
The tribute was similar to if far more elaborate than the dozen other farewell celebrations that have greeted the game's all-time Iron Man on the road since he announced his intention to retire June 19.
"All the cities that we went to, after Cal announced his retirement and how they took it in, it gave us something to smile about," said pitcher Josh Towers. "It took our mind off losing and at some points not really competing with other teams."
Against Boston, Baltimore's ongoing competitive issues were readily apparent, particularly for right-handed starter Rick Bauer (0-5), who gave up four runs and seven hits in seven innings.
That was more than enough for 38-year-old Red Sox right-hander Cone (9-7), who yielded three hits over eight innings, at one point retiring 13 consecutive batters. Ugueth Urbina earned the save for Boston.
Ripken went 0-for-3, driving a ball to the right field warning track, flying out to shallow right and belting a high fly to center field on his last at-bat in the eighth.
The Orioles took an early lead in the first inning, as leadoff hitter Tim Raines Jr. scored on a sacrifice fly from Jeff Conine. However, Bauer gave up a two-run, 345-foot homer to Bichette in the top of the second, then loaded the bases before escaping the inning on a 1-2-3 double play off the bat of Offerman.
Offerman made the most of his next opportunity in the fifth, crushing a two-run, 410-foot blast over the wall in right center to give the Red Sox a 4-1 advantage.
Like Ripken, outfielder Brady Anderson also may have played his final game in a Baltimore uniform. Anderson, a franchise stalwart and a close friend of Ripken's, is signed through next season but was hitting just .200 heading into last night's game.
"This year has been a struggle for me," Anderson said. "[But] funny and strange things happen in baseball, especially when there's four months between now and spring training. I'm looking forward to the challenge of coming back and having a great year."
As is Baltimore. Though the Orioles' season came to its expected conclusionfar removed from playoff contention the manner in which it unfolded was hardly according to plan.
By unloading a number of high-priced veterans at the end of last year and seeding its roster with prospects like Jerry Hairston and Chris Richard, Baltimore hoped to take its lumps early, all the while establishing a core of young players to build around for the future.
Instead, the Orioles got off to a mildly competitive start40-47 at the All-Star breakthen unraveled in a tailspin of injury and defeat. This is only the sixth time in 48 seasons that Baltimore has lost more than 90 games.
"We started out as what I thought was a pretty good team," Towers said. "Then a lot of injuries took place, we had a lot of young guys in our lineup that's how I got my shot and we did struggle. It was a big time learning experience."
And as the Orioles hope to take those lessons into next season, they'll have to do it without Ripken, the man who personified Baltimore baseball for two decades.
"There's not one player that can take his place,," Hairston said. "There's not three or four that can take the place of what he's done I see [our] lineup, and I'm a veteran. And this is my first season. We have a group of young guys here, and we all have to start playing baseball the Oriole way."

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