Fans cry foul on balls

The Cal Ripken commemorative baseball that Orioles fans waited in long lines to purchase yesterday made a hasty exit from Camden Yards.

Hasty, as in going, going, gone. Gone before people like Andrea and Bryan Shank of Pasadena, who stood outside the Oriole Store on Eutaw Street for a half-hour, could take one home as a souvenir.

The balls were identical to the ones used in last night's record-tying game. The stitches were orange, and the ball included Ripken's name and uniform number, and the streak week logo.

The Orioles store began selling them at 4 p.m. They soon ran out, and all that remained were angry customers who got there early and still came away empty-handed.

"I was expecting to wait, but I'm disappointed they ran out of balls," said Andrea Shank, who had shuffled through a line that wound down Eutaw Street. "I think they sold them before the people who bought tickets even got here."

The team released a statement last night saying that, due to an overwhelming demand for Orioles merchandise commemorating Ripken's streak, the commemorative baseball and publication had sold out. However, both the specially made Rawlings ball ($20) and the publication ($12.95) will remain available by mail to anyone who orders them by calling (800) 303-4010.

The initial shipment of baseballs was limited because of a shortage of orange stitching, the team said. A limited supply of both items will be available at tonight's game at the Oriole Store.

Joe Noble of Greenbelt said he waited about 20 minutes to geinside the Orioles store to buy a ball and program. It was more than an hour before the game would begin, and he still was too late to get either item.

"You've got everyone going for programs so they can hoard them, and the same with baseballs," he said. "You get here over an hour early and walk in, and you come out with the same old stuff. You obviously want something special for this besides the ticket. Where's the balance regarding the people who want a little memento and the ones who are hoarding?"

Weaver holds court

Before the game, Earl Weaver regaled reporters with stories about Ripken.

"He looked to me like a natural-born shortstop," Weaver said. "With the bases loaded and two outs in the ninth, I wanted the ball hit to this kid."

Weaver, who threw out the first ball last night, hurled an eephus pitch to Ripken for a strike. Weaver immediately whipped out a pen and had Ripken sign the ball.

"What an honor," Weaver said before the game. "I have nothing to do with this streak. You're not going to believe this or not, but I never thought about the streak."

Getting in tune

Saturday night, Bruce Hornsby performed two Grateful Dead songs in tribute to the late Jerry Garcia at the concert for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland.

Yet, Hornsby said he'll be even more nervous tonight, when he and Branford Marsalis perform the national anthem at Camden Yards. Hornsby will be on piano, Marsalis on saxophone.

"Frankly, this is harder -- everyone knows this song," Hornsby said. "If you go out there and hit what we call a 'clam,' everyone knows it. It's not like rock 'n' roll, where you basically go up there and go at it."

Aberdeen celebrates

On the night that Ripken tied Lou Gehrig's streak, his hometown couldn't have asked for a better test run for its festivities marking his achievement.

About 1,200 residents filled Aberdeen High School's football field to watch Home Team Sports' telecast of last night's Orioles game on a giant screen spread across goal posts. Organizers expect 3,000 tonight when Ripken breaks the record.

Although some got in free, thanks to sponsors, most Ripken fans paid $3 apiece. Proceeds will go to local projects, including the Aberdeen High Empty Goalpost Fund (for improvements to the

football field) and the planned Ripken Museum.

Yankee Stadium tribute

At Yankee Stadium last night, photos of Ripken and Gehrig were flashed on the scoreboard when Ripken tied the record.

"We congratulate and salute Cal Ripken for equaling a record that many thought would never be broken," Yankee Stadium public address announcer Bob Sheppard told the crowd.

E9 Yankees fans responded with a brief standing ovation.

Witness to greatness

California manager Marcel Lachemann was present for Reggie Jackson's 500th home run, Don Sutton's 300th win and Rod Carew's 3,000th hit. This means just as much to him.

"I feel very privileged just to sign the lineup card," Lachemann said.

He also compared Ripken to Gehrig.

"Probably Gehrig's looking down right now and thinking of anybody to break it, and he probably couldn't think of anybody better than Cal Ripken," Lachemann said.

Behind the plate

Umpire Larry Barnett is elated that he's scheduled to work behind the plate tonight.

"When I walked into the stadium [last night], I thought it was the World Series," Barnett said. "It gets you in the World Series atmosphere."

Don't expect Barnett to eject Ripken -- who has been ejected twice during the streak -- on his record-breaking day.

"Short of probably shooting me in the head, he's going to stay in the game," Barnett said.

An inside job

Chris Dugan usually works for a home improvement company in Glen Burnie, but he took on a second job yesterday. And he'll be back today.

Dugan could be found hauling large containers of ice and hustling programs to vendors as part of his duties as a stadium service worker, a job one of his friends who works at the stadium arranged for him so he could be part of the Ripken festivities.

0 "After [today], I'm gone," he said, smiling.

Mussina adds perspective

Mike Mussina, the team's master of sarcasm who amused the media with imitations of comedian Steven Wright, turns serious when talking about pitching in Ripken's record breaker. "This event is going to be three or four levels above anything I've ever done athletically," Mussina said.


* Hank Aaron: "I really don't know him as well as some people do. All I can do is admire what he has accomplished. Anybody who has played as long as he has and has that discipline is someone to admire."

* Ernie Banks: "I really like him. I'd love to have played with him. I couldn't have played shortstop, but I could have played first. I love his throws. His throws are very accurate. Easy to handle."

* John Unitas: "He has done a great job. He has had a greacareer. I'm sure he'll be happy when all these proceedings are over with, so he can go back to playing the game."

* Rene Gonzales, Angels infielder and former Oriole: "It was veremotional. It was surprising seeing Cal not really knowing how to behave. All he ever does is run out there every day and do his thing and never asks for any accolades for that."

Did Gonzales get caught up in the emotion? "Of course, I'm just like anybody else out there. It's an awesome, awesome thing," he said.

* Jim Edmonds, Angels outfielder: When asked to rank the streak among baseball records, Edmonds said it belonged "at the top."

"It's not the most important ever made, but it's the mosgratifying because of his dedication and character. It shows what kind of man Cal is -- not just ballplayer, but man. I'm happy for him. I can't do much but stand there and applaud."

* John Habyan, Angels pitcher and former Oriole: "I'm in thpresence of greatness. I felt like a kid in a candy store, hanging out there watching. I can't imagine what kind of emotion goes through him. I'm just a bystander and I get goose bumps."

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