- The Washington Times - Friday, September 28, 2001


BOSTON While making his final appearance at each opposing ballpark during his farewell tour, Cal Ripken has been honored in many ways, has received numerous gifts and has gotten countless thank yous.

Last night, as the fans at historic Fenway Park said goodbye to the retiring Baltimore Orioles star, he revealed for the first time that the outpouring of appreciation and well-wishes from the last three months and the realization that his playing days are running out is starting to get to him.

"I've got to tell you, as the end is getting closer, this is getting tougher," Ripken announced to the crowd of 32,719 before the Orioles beat the Boston Red Sox 4-2.

Since Ripken announced June 19 that this would be his final season, this week's trips to Boston and New York have stood out from the rest of the series on Baltimore's second-half schedule. Both Fenway and Yankee Stadium, where the Orioles open a three-game series tonight, figured to be special venues for the Iron Man's final road games.

The Red Sox's pregame tribute was one of the season's most touching, although it began awkwardly with beleaguered Boston general manager Dan Duquette being booed resoundingly as he tried to speak glowingly of Ripken. A pair of Red Sox legends, Carlton Fisk and Dwight Evans, presented Ripken with a box seat and an original oil painting of the park.

Ripken, whose children (11-year-old Rachel and 8-year-old Ryan) threw out ceremonial first pitches, delivered his lengthiest ballpark speech of the year and appeared to be choked up on a few occasions. He spoke fondly of his Fenway Park memories, including the 1999 All-Star Game (when baseball's All-Century Team was revealed) and his attempts to make a dent into the famed Green Monster as so many great players have over the years.

"I've hit a few balls against that wall," he said. "And I'd sure love to put one more dimple in it before I leave."

As it turns out, Ripken didn't get much of a chance to take aim at the large fence. He struck out looking in the second inning (and had a few words for home plate umpire Brian O'Nora), walked in the fifth, was plunked by Tim Wakefield's knuckleball in the sixth and lined out sharply to right field in the eighth.

Fortunately for the Orioles, Ripken's teammates had better luck. Stymied for five innings by spot starter Derek Lowe, Baltimore greeted Wakefield in the sixth with four runs. Tony Batista continued his recent surge by lofting a two-run double high off the Green Monster. He's batting .531 (17-for-32) over his last eight games, though he failed to pick up multiple hits last night for the first time during that stretch.

Brady Anderson followed with an RBI single to left, the struggling veteran's third hit of the night and one of his most significant of the season in that it raised his batting average over .200 for the first time since July 22.

The four runs provided all the support rookie pitcher Sean Douglass needed to earn his second victory. Douglass retired the first nine batters, was touched for a home run by Jose Offerman and an RBI single by Brian Daubach in the fourth, but came back and pitched well into the sixth before he was pulled for left-hander B.J. Ryan.

Rookie right-hander Jorge Julio impressed with three strikeouts in two shutout innings, and closer Willis Roberts retired the side in the ninth to notch his sixth save and the team's first since Aug. 23.

Note The Orioles have not yet announced the results of David Segui's doctor's visit in Baltimore this week, but it's believed the injured first baseman had or will need to have arthroscopic surgery performed on his left knee. Segui has not played since Sept. 7.

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