The night was far from over, but only one thing still mattered.
Anaheim Angels third baseman Troy Glaus jogged to third base to relieve Ripken and signal the beginning of a six-minute ceremony in which the Iron Man and San Diego Padres right fielder Tony Gwynn received the Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award. (Ripken won the award retroactively for breaking Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games streak in 1995 but last night touched it for the first time.)
Commissioner Bud Selig honored the "legacy" of Ripken and Gwynn during the on-field ceremony. Ripken, not wanting to interrupt the game for too long, said only: "I just want to say it's been a great run. Thank you very much."
Voted into the game as the starting third baseman, Ripken trotted out alongside Rangers shortstop Alex Rodriguez before the first pitch. But Rodriguez never swerved toward shortstop. Instead, Rodriguez pushed his boyhood idol toward the position Ripken last played on June 15, 1997.
"I must have been the only person on the whole planet who didn't know," said Ripken. "I went out there and thought this wasn't the time or the place to go back to short."
Rodriguez would not relent.
"Everybody's expecting you to do it," he said. "Go on over there."
Ripken moved haltingly to the position he once defined as an announcement was made of the switch. The move apparently was Rodriguez's idea. Ripken had insisted Monday that he had no inkling that he might play anywhere other than third base.
The game found Ripken and Rodriguez quickly when leadoff hitter Luis Gonzalez lifted a pop fly to shortstop. Rodriguez tracked the ball from third, and Ripken edged away. Rodriguez played it as a shortstop, calling off the transplanted third baseman.
"At first, I was really hoping Roger [Clemens] could strike out three guys and not have a play," said Ripken. "Then, after the first out, I started thinking I would like to have a play. After the second out, I really thought I'd like one. It was a good feeling. It was a different look. It was one I saw for the majority of my career. It was fun to go back and get that look."
He moved to third base later in the game.
As he had promised before arriving here Monday, Ripken continued to savor the experience. Rather than shower and dress after leaving the game, he found his 7-year-old son, Ryan, and brought him onto the bench.
"I probably broke a few rules, but he'll appreciate that experience for years to come," Ripken said. "I wanted to sit out there and just take it in. I just wanted to watch and be a part of the moment."