Ripken to retire
Orioles' Iron Man to finish season; 'Can't play forever; A 'passion for what's next'; His youth initiative, family and direction of team guided move
On the bench: After a remarkably injury-free career, Cal Ripken has spent unfamiliar time on the bench since 1999 because of lingering back and rib injuries. (Sun Staff / June 19, 2001)
Ripken, the game's record-holder for consecutive games played and a symbol for Major League Baseball as well as the hometown franchise for which he has played his entire 21-year career, will announce the decision at a 3 p.m. news conference today at Camden Yards after telling the Washington Post yesterday of recently reaching a decision to retire.
"He's been struggling with this, thinking about it, and finally just said, 'Yes,'" John Maroon, a Ripken spokesman, said early this morning. "There were three factors that played into it: his youth initiative, his family and the direction the Orioles have taken."
Orioles officials did not learn of his decision until hours after last night's 3-2 win over the Toronto Blue Jays.
Ripken, 40, will play the rest of the season, according to Maroon, before appearing in uniform for the final time, against the New York Yankees in Yankee Stadium on Sept.30.
As recently as Saturday, Ripken had said he had no intention of announcing a decision on his future at next month's All-Star Game in Seattle. He did not elaborate.
The rebuilding Orioles had made clear with several moves this season that they were preparing to take a direction away from the perennial All-Star. Hargrove said in April that Ripken's playing time would be cut to "two to five games a week," a slight reduction from previous estimates and a description that confirmed Ripken's status as a part-time player. Last month, vice president for baseball operations Syd Thrift said the team was actively seeking Ripken's successor.
Ripken initially reacted icily to team pronouncements but, according to a club source, recently told the club that he was willing to accept a less visible playing role. Ripken has since become essentially a platoon player, rarely starting against right-handed pitchers while the team's RBI leader, Jeff Conine has usually taken his place.
"It's inevitable that you can't play forever," Ripken told the Post. "I've maximized my window of opportunity as well as anyone. [Baseball] has given me a lot of joy and happiness and satisfaction. I'm proud of what I've been able to do."
Time for 'other things'
Ripken said he is ready for "other things," which will include greater involvement with the Aberdeen Project, the construction of an elaborate baseball facility near his childhood home. Ripken also plans to spend more time with family, according to Maroon.
"The Aberdeen Project was one thing pulling him," Maroon said. "Another thing was his family, and that's been there for a couple years now. He wanted to spend more time with them. And the third thing is, obviously the Orioles have a plan in place. Cal doesn't want to block that plan and inhibit them from moving forward on the path they're on. He certainly respects the Orioles and the path they're on. The two largest factors are the family and his passion for what's next."
Angelos: 'Typical Cal'
Ripken did not inform Orioles majority owner Peter Angelos of his decision before making the announcement, but Angelos was not surprised by the news.
"I think it's the same approach he used when he ended The Streak," Angelos told The Sun early this morning. "He kept his own counsel, and when he decided, he decided. That's typical Cal.
"That's the way he does things. Obviously, we respect it and we can say that there will never be another Cal Ripken. He is a great athlete, a great sportsman and a great Marylander."
Ripken took some criticism for continuing to play beyond his best years, but Angelos said the player had every right to decide when his career should end.
"In light of his accomplishments, he deserves a lot of latitude," the owner said. "Baseball owes him. He doesn't owe baseball anything. Here's a guy who never deviated from the contract figure that he had five years ago, never demanded any more, he has never gotten credit for that. I have a great deal of respect for him."
Reached after leaving Camden Yards, manager Mike Hargrove said he was unaware that Ripken had made a decision.