Cal Ripken, the third baseman who needs no last name in Baltimore or in baseball, announced that he's retiring after 21 years with the Orioles.
"If you look at the whole league, he's the only one who's a lifer. He's the last of the stud breed. But it's time," said Bob Zeman of Baldwin. At 41, he is about the same age as Ripken, who will turn 41 on Aug. 24. "I know how I feel when I get out of bed in the morning. Your body changes, especially somebody like him, pumping it out every day."
Dave Hoffman, a father of three from Hanover, Pa., said, "We're all really going to miss him, but he did pick the right time."
Ripken has played 2,922 games and has 3,107 hits since his major-league debut in 1981.
He broke Lou Gehrig's record of 2,130 consecutive games played in 1995, and didn't stop the streak until he played his 2,632nd in 1998.
Now graying and bothered by injuries, he has been slowed recently. His spring training got a late start after he fractured a rib while playing basketball at his Reisterstown home in February.
His long career shows resilience typical of Baltimore, said Mayor Martin O'Malley.
"It's kind of a bittersweet day. I guess we're all sad not to see him trot out there on the field," O'Malley said. "On the other hand, you have to say, 'What a great career.' His career is a symbol of the greatness of this city. He gave 100 percent every day."
William Donald Schaefer, former Baltimore mayor, former Maryland governor, current state comptroller, and himself in the twilight of an extraordinary career, said he doesn't like the word "retire" for anyone, especially Ripken.
"He's young. He has a whole new career in front of him. He's got many years of productive life," said Schaefer, 79. "He's made his mark and he's going out in a blaze of glory, at the height of his popularity."
Schaefer said he admires Ripken for remaining loyal to his home team. "A man like that staying with one ballclub the whole time is truly remarkable."
Ripken has become a tourist attraction.
At Harborplace, the manager of Stadium Sports said her store's most popular shirt is still Ripken's No. 8, with dozens sold every week.
But Pat Zimnawoda said people were expecting Ripken to retire this year. "It's time for him. He's been around forever."
Rathea Mims, 48, said she'll continue to drive friends by Ripken's estate when they visit.
"He's like a legend in Maryland," said Mims, of Pikesville. "When you go out of town, people ask you two things: Do you live near Lexington Market? And have you ever met Cal Ripken?"
Several of the fans arriving for last night's game were sentimental as they recalled Ripken's glory days unfolding along with their own lives.