End of the road
Ripken makes final trips to Fenway, Yankee Stadium
Updated: Monday September 24, 2001 11:46 PM
BOSTON (AP) -- Cal Ripken stared at the framed black-and-white photo showing Ted Williams practicing his batting stance in Boston's clubhouse.
Later this week Ripken can check out the monuments to Yankee greats in the House That Ruth Built.
The end of Ripken's long road passes through two of baseball's most historic fields, Fenway Park and Yankee Stadium, for the last seven games away from home of his 20-year career.
"There's a presence on those ballfields and it's a really cool experience," said Ripken, who announced June 19 he would retire at the end of the season. "It couldn't get any better than going to Fenway Park and going to Yankee Stadium."
The Baltimore Orioles opened a four-game series Monday night by beating the Boston Red Sox 5-1. They play three games at Yankee Stadium starting Friday night that would have been the end of Ripken's career.
But because of the terrorist attacks that caused six days of postponements, the games the Orioles missed -- three against Toronto and four against Boston -- will be made up next week in Baltimore.
"I didn't look at the end of the schedule when I made my decision to retire. It's a very personal decision," Ripken said at a news conference before Monday's game with an American flag behind him and the Williams photo hanging from the same wall.
So Ripken, who said he had no regrets about his decision to retire, embarked on his last road trip after Sunday's four-hour, 14-minute loss to the New York Yankees. He went 1-for-4 with a homer, a sacrifice fly and three RBIs but Baltimore squandered a 4-0 lead and lost 5-4.
On Monday, he went 0-for-5 with an RBI without hitting the ball out of the infield but started two double plays and made a diving stop for another out. Then he stayed on the field for 36 minutes after the game to sign autographs.
"As a defense mechanism for my feelings and my emotions, I've been pushing off the inevitable of the last anything," Ripken said. "But when the calendar changed from August to September, that last month kind of came in there and I started to get different feelings. I started becoming a little bit more emotional.
"If you simplify things, it's one more road trip, one more homestand and then I'm finished playing."
He'll be finished after achieving some remarkable milestones -- a major league record 2,632 consecutive games played, more than 3,100 hits, 430 homers and 5,100 total bases.
And, if he plays 12 of Baltimore's remaining 13 games, he'll finish with an even 3,000.
But he doesn't want to create any expectations for a dramatic finish even if he's had a flair for such accomplishments. In his last All-Star Game this season, he homered.
"The pressure sometimes has the ability to mount and it's not true that you can just call up on your greater focus and have a good at bat any time you want," Ripken said. "It's important for me to continue to play well. Everyone takes pride in what they do on the field and I'd like to go down to the finish line just playing well."
Ripken entered Monday's game with a .261 batting average with 14 homers and 67 RBIs in 114 games. In his previous six games, he was 9-for-24 with nine RBIs and a hit in each one. He ended the day at .258.
His .305 batting average at Fenway Park before the season was his second- best at any stadium, trailing only the Metrodome in Minneapolis, where he hit .323.
"The thing that I remember the most is just the feeling you get when you walk out on that field" at Fenway, Ripken said. "All of the ballparks, especially the new ones, and Camden Yards, I guess, started the trend, try to capture in the modern sense the feeling of Fenway Park.
"It's just a great feeling to be able to play baseball on that field. It's a special place."