April 1982: Cal Ripken Jr. is greeted by father and Oriole coach Cal Sr. after slamming his first major league home run in opening day win over Kansas City at Memorial Stadium. (Sun file photo)
Seventeenth of a series recounting Cal Ripken's 20 full major-league seasons.
Cal Ripken entered his manager's office around 7:30 p.m. on the night of Sept. 20, 1998, and ended the major leagues' longest consecutive-games streak at 2,632. He did so simply by telling Ray Miller that he wanted out of the lineup. A few words took care of a mighty deed.
It was Ripken's call, and he made it without warning. The decision removed Ripken from the left side of the Orioles' infield for the first time since May 30, 1982. It put Ryan Minor, his replacement at third base, in a spotlight that later would prove too intense. It also gave fans at Camden Yards another chance to embrace baseball's Iron Man.
They stood to applaud as Ripken's image appeared on the video screen after New York's Chuck Knoblauch made the game's first out. Ripken left his seat in the dugout to acknowledge the ovation, and the Yankees tipped their caps in front of the opposite bench. He came out a second time before motioning for Orioles starter Doug Johns to proceed.
"It was time," Ripken said of his decision. "Baseball has always been a team game. I talked to my wife [Kelly] and decided, 'Let's end it in the same place it started. In my home state. In front of friends and family. In front of the best fans in the world.' "
Ripken had played another 501 games after breaking Lou Gehrig's record. No. 502 seemed in the books, or at least on Miller's lineup card, until Ripken asked to sit out.
"It was pretty emotional for me," Miller said later that night. "He told me one of the reasons he did this was me, and that really made me feel good. That's the one time I choked up. He said it was his decision for several reasons, 'and one of them was for you.' And that made me feel pretty special."
Ripken batted .308 in his last 59 games to raise his average to .271. His 14 homers matched his lowest total in a non-strike-shortened season. His 67 RBIs were his fewest since breaking into the majors in August 1981.
But what would a Ripken season be without a few more records? He made an unprecedented 15th consecutive All-Star Game start. He became the first American League player to appear in at least 150 games in 15 seasons, and accumulate at least 600 at-bats in 13 seasons. And he passed Brooks Robinson for most hits in Orioles history with 2,849.