Cal hitless in final road game of career

NEW YORK (AP) -- Cal Ripken Jr.'s final road game was a contest
only an Iron Man could truly appreciate.

The Orioles and Yankees combined to shuttle in nine bench
players and 11 relievers through 15 innings that stretched for 5
hours, 1 minute under slate skies and steady showers Sunday.

At the end, when the game was called because of rain with the
teams tied at 1, Ripken was still on the field, manning third base,
disappointed that his final appearance at Yankee Stadium -- his
final appearance anywhere in Baltimore's gray away uniform -- was
his poorest showing, statistically, of his 21 years in the majors.

Ripken, who announced in June that he would retire at season's
end, went 0-for-7 for the first time ever, with four strikeouts.

"I feel a certain relief that it's over and a certain regret
that I wasn't able to perform the way I'd like to in my last series
in Yankee Stadium," he said. "But I still enjoyed the experience
and I'll still cherish it."

Just after the 15th inning ended with Gerald Williams striking
out swinging as his bat slipped from his hands and flew into the
Orioles' dugout -- hitting pitching coach Mark Wiley -- the tarp was
put on the field. The game was called a half-hour later.

Only about 5,000 spectators out of an announced crowd of 55,351
were still around by the 15th.

"It was an eerie sort of game: the weather, the gray skies, the
wind, the rain. Pitching seemed to dominate today but it was still
enjoyable," Ripken said. "I'll look back and know I still had a
lot of fun competing. I certainly would have liked to have been
10-for-14 or something."

The teams combined for just 13 hits and 32 strikeouts, and left
a total of 26 runners on base.

Ripken was the center of attention throughout what turned into a
long day, from a pregame ceremony in his honor at 12:40 p.m., to
the final out at 6:15 p.m.

Flashbulbs popped and fans stood to cheer each time Ripken came
to the plate. Alas, he dropped to 0-for-14 in the three-game
series, increasing his hitless slide to a season-worst five games.

The closest he came to a hit was on the first pitch he saw, in
the second inning, from Yankees starter Roger Clemens. Ripken drove
the ball to deep center, but Bernie Williams tracked it down for an
over-the-shoulder catch.

"The funny thing was, Bernie makes that catch and when he comes
back to the bench, he says, 'He didn't mention me in his pregame
speech.' That was hilarious," Yankees manager Joe Torre said.

Spectators chanted "Let's go, Cal!" just before reliever Mike Stanton struck out Ripken swinging in the ninth.

Leading off the eighth against Ramiro Mendoza, Ripken swung at
the first pitch and hit a high popup that Derek Jeter -- one of
today's star shortstops inspired by Ripken -- caught in foul
territory. The fans applauded as Ripken went back to the dugout,
and they kept cheering until he climbed to the top step and waved.

Many fans departed after Ripken struck out swinging against
Clemens in the fourth inning.

They had already braved bad weather to watch the player they
came to see -- the owner of more than 3,000 hits, more than 400 home
runs and, of course, the man who broke Yankees great Lou Gehrig's
record of playing in 2,130 consecutive games.

Those gone by the seventh missed a nifty defensive play by the
Orioles' shortstop-turned-third-baseman. Ripken bent down to snare
a liner at his shoe-top hit by Bernie Williams leading off that
inning. Ripken snapped up his glove after the catch.

Bernie Williams homered in the Yankees' fourth. Baltimore tied
it 1 when Chris Richard homered in the sixth.

Clemens later struck out Ripken, who spoke during a pregame
ceremony near the spot where Gehrig, dying from a neurological
disorder that would become known by his name, said goodbye to New
York fans in a moving speech on July 4, 1939. Gehrig told the
stadium, "I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the

Ripken originally was scheduled to play his final series of the
season -- and of his career -- at Yankee Stadium on Sunday. That
changed when the schedule was stretched a week to make up the games
postponed by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Ripken instead will finish at home next Saturday.

"It was very exciting, very emotional, overwhelming. I was very
much touched by all the gestures, getting caught up in Yankee
Stadium. It's the baseball stage for me," he said. "I probably
swung a lot harder than I should have swung. I was overaggressive.
But I enjoyed competing.

"Would you believe I tried to do that so we could play a long,
last game? It's fun to go out there and play."

Game notes
Torre raised the possibility that his team might have to
replay Sunday's game and a Sept. 10 rainout against Boston if the
outcomes would affect New York's playoff standing. He said the two
games might be played in New York on Oct. 8. ... The only other
time Ripken had four strikeouts in a game was May 2, 1984, against
the Cleveland Indians. ... Ripken is tied with Paul Molitor for the
most hits by an opponent (136) in the 26-year history of remodeled
Yankee Stadium.