|Orioles send Ripken to Hall in style|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 24 July 2007 14:33|
Eddie Murray caught it, walked toward Ripken, shook his hand and accepted a hug.
One member of the Hall of Fame embracing someone slated to join the exclusive fraternity on Sunday.
The Baltimore Orioles held a tribute for Ripken on Tuesday night before their game against Tampa Bay. Camden Yards was nearly filled, and it had nothing to do with the matchup between the fourth- and fifth-place teams in the AL East.
It was about giving Ripken a proper sendoff to Cooperstown.
``I'm just here to help him celebrate. He did all the work,'' said Earl Weaver, Ripken's first manager.
The event was attended by Murray, Weaver, Brooks Robinson and Robin Roberts, all of whom played for the Orioles and are now in the Hall of Fame. The Orioles and Devil Rays watched from the top step of their respective dugouts, many of them applauding the player known as the Iron Man.
After a video tribute, Ripken entered from right field seated atop the passenger seat of a white Corvette. The car appeared to move slower than Ripken did when he took a lap around Camden Yards after he broke Lou Gehrig's record of playing 2,130 consecutive games - a feat recognized by the numbers 2-1-3-1 on the warehouse.
Ripken voluntarily ended the streak ended at 2,632, the new standard for longevity.
As the Corvette moved forward, Ripken tossed baseballs to children in the crowd. He then got out of the car, walked on an orange carpet toward the pitcher's mound and delivered a speech that was surely more succinct than the one he will give Sunday at his induction.
Referring to the standing ovation he received during his entrance, he said, ``For a brief moment, when you guys were standing up, I had a flashback moment. You guys clapped for about 22 minutes that night (he broke Gehrig's record). And you forced me to run around this ballpark and shake everybody's hand. It ain't happening tonight!''
Since his induction in January, Ripken has shook thousands of hands and accepted congratulations from people around the world. This celebration was a little bit more special, however, because it came in the ballpark where he spent the final 10 years of his amazing career.
He ended his speech by quoting one of the players he idolized.
``I guess I'll take a little page out of Brooks Robinson's speech when he said goodbye,'' Ripken said. ``It's been a wonderful 21 years sharing it all with you, and I only wish I had 21 more to give you.''
Beforehand, Ripken spoke of being overwhelmed by all the attention he's received over the past few months.
``I think some attention is good, makes you feel good. A pat on the back helps every once in a while,'' he said. ``It will be a sense of relief when it's all over. I'll want to go back to a more normal environment where I'm not saying thank you and being congratulated every other minute.''
That's not the only reason Ripken is looking forward to finally taking his place in baseball's ultimate shrine.
``For the most part, it's a collection of people who played the game, real people, almost like going to an All-Star game and sitting in that clubhouse and looking around at the guys you play against,'' he said. ``Except this All-Star team is players who played in different eras and at different times. Everyone that been inducted into the Hall of Fame says the best part is hanging out with the Hall of Famers. It's a special club.''