Cal Ripken’s last game. The idea of the ‘long goodbye’ as exemplified by Derek Jeter’s nauseating death march in 2014 had not taken hold but still the final game of Cal Ripken’s marvelous career was considered to be a big deal at the time and Mark and I were in attendance. Yet when I look back on that game, there were a number of aspects that only marginally touch the fabled Orioles hero.
9/11 – After a couple of innings, the umpires and players all left the field. It turned out that one of the umpires had been injured and they were figuring out what to do next. The crowd however was not apprised of this. We were all left to sit in silence. Although no one said anything, there was certain unease in the crowd. This was only a few weeks after 9/11 and it was easy to let one’s imagination get away from you.
Boston Red Sox – The Bosox were the opponent that night. Of the eleven players who participated for Boston, only four would return the next season, and only one (Trot Nixon) would have any meaningful role with the 2004 World Championship team.
Newly elected Hall of Famer Tim Raines – That September the Orioles were trying to break in a young outfielder up from the minors named Tim Raines, Jr. Tim was the son of Tim (Rock) Raines, Sr. whose Hall of Fame career was winding down. In a class act the Orioles purchased Tim, Sr. from Montreal for the last week of the season so he could have some playing time with his son. Junior was in the lineup that night but Rock was not. However in the seventh inning they did use him as a pinch hitter. Tim, Sr. left the Orioles at the end of the year so this was the last time that the two played in the same big league game. Tim, Jr.’s career never amounted to much but seeing the father-son combo in the same game was still a touching sight.
Brady Anderson and Cal’s (almost) final at bat – Mostly though, I remember the last play of the game. In the bottom of the eighth, Cal had flied out to center field and we all assumed that this was his last time at bat. However the O’s then managed a few hits and when the ninth inning rolled around another Cal Ripken at bat was a distinct possibility. In the end it came down to Brady Anderson at bat, with two out and Cal on deck.
Ugueth Urbina was on the mound for Boston and I recall the Red Sox manager (anyone remember Joe Kerrigan?) going out to the mound to confer with him. While I generally do not hold for sentimentality influencing how the game is played, this was one time I gave in. I remember saying to Mark that it would be nice if they gave Anderson an intentional walk and let Cal have one last at bat.
It was not to be however. Urbina bore down and struck out Anderson for the final out of the game. It was ironic that this was also Brady Anderson’s last game as an Oriole. The outfielder had been a key part of the team in since 1989. Now at the age of 37 his batting average had fallen to .202 and he was clearly at the end of the line. I felt a little sad that the end of Anderson’s distinguished career as an Oriole had been so completely obscured by Cal’s heralded departure.
…and oh yes, Cal made a nice speech at the end of the game.