A complicated mix of pride, reflection, celebration and sadness played out simply last night on the final night of Cal Ripken's final October. The Orioles ended a 63-98 season; Ripken closed a career.

Few will remember the Orioles lost to the Boston Red Sox, but none will forget the last night Ripken would step from the first base dugout to thank a gathering that thought of him as more than a hero-player or a role model but also as one of its own.

The game ended with a standing crowd shouting "We want Cal" as Brady Anderson tried to keep the game alive long enough to give Ripken one last at-bat. When Anderson swung through Ugueth Urbina's 3-2 fastball, it was over, a 5-1 loss. Anderson walked to the dugout, greeted by his smiling best friend. Ripken rubbed his helmet, Anderson dipped his head. Only the goodbyes remained.

Ripken arrived alone at the park around 3:30 p.m. The first minutes of his final day as a player were spent meeting with his wife and two children in the clubhouse video room. He later met with Orioles chief operating officer Joe Foss, who notified him of the club's intention to donate $1 million for construction of the mini-Camden Yards at Ripken's Aberdeen Project.

Ripken admittedly was stunned.

Slipping into the clubhouse as quietly as possible, Ripken spoke with several teammates before heading to his locker at 4:12 p.m. to dress for the final time.

It was at this time of day Ripken felt closest to his late father, Cal Sr. The son always remembered the father at his proudest when he slipped into his uniform and began the work he loved.

Ripken dressed purposefully, speaking casually with visitors while preparing himself for a series of dugout interviews - one with Comcast SportsNet's Michael Reghi and another with WBAL play-by-play voice Jim Hunter. "I've had my fill," Ripken told Hunter as if to dispel the notion of his exit being cause for sadness.

Ripken granted a quickie photo shoot for the upcoming ESPY Awards, his hands framing his face as a photographer instructed him, "Tighter. Tighter. Tighter."

Finally only Ripken's eyes pierced the handmade frame.

He chatted with Three Mo' Tenors before accepting a CD and two hats from the group that would perform the national anthem, then excused himself to hit in the indoor batting cage.

"I know he's probably going to be relieved when it's over," said Anderson, Ripken's teammate since 1988. "A lot of athletes, when they leave, you feel bad for them. They seem so sad, distraught or devastated. It seems the opposite for Cal. I honestly think it's going to be a relief from the grind and the attention he has received. In that way, it won't be sad."

The final scorecard

Upstairs, former Sun baseball writer Jim Henneman prepared his scorecard. Now official scorer, Henneman saw Ripken's first game. He would savor the last.

The original scorecard becomes property of Major League Baseball, "but I think I'm going to be keeping a copy," Henneman said.

At 6:12 p.m. Ripken reached the dugout for a pre-game ceremony that began four minutes later and offered his introduction seven minutes after that. He reached a stage reserved for his wife, children and mother while Hunter emceed. Former President Bill Clinton was on hand. Majority owner Peter Angelos also ventured into the dugout. Ripken's moment to speak would come later, but his moment for reflection already had arrived.

"You always wonder if what you see is what you get," Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said during the pre-game ceremony. "It's been my experience with Cal in the two years that I've been around that, yes, what you get is what you see. Cal is Cal."

Unlike the night six years ago when Ripken broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games record, the ceremony did not include speaking parts for any member of the Orioles' front office other than vice chairman of community projects and public affairs Tom Clancy.

Vice president for baseball operations Syd Thrift accompanied Hargrove onto the field to present Ripken a Waterford vase bearing likenesses of Memorial Stadium and Camden Yards. Foss was on hand to present the oversized $1 million check.