Jerry Bounds can rest now. The Aberdeen appliance store owner can stop rising early every morning and changing his Cal Ripken sign.
On the Aberdeen Thruway on the outskirts of town is a sign that proclaims in red and black letters: "Welcome to Aberdeen, Maryland. Hometown of Cal Ripken Jr." Under that is a line noting the number of games until Ripken breaks Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games streak.
The number is now zero.
Last night, approximately 3,000 of Aberdeen's 14,000 residents sat in their lawn chairs on the football field and, on a giant TV screen stretched between a set of the goal posts, watched the Orioles' shortstop play in his record-breaking 2,131st game.
When it became official after 4 1/2 innings, the crowd stood and roared its approval. Fans remained standing and applauded intermittently until the game resumed 22 minutes, 15 seconds later.
Earlier, when Ripken homered in his second at-bat, the fans, in a more spontaneous show of enthusiasm, leaped to their feet and applauded vigorously for a full minute.
The stadium decor was pure Ripken. Souvenir stands sold Ripken shirts, trading cards, drinking glasses, photos, programs, posters, and, yes, Ripken fans for those who were hot. Concession stands advertised that part of their proceeds would go to the planned Ripken Museum.
Approximately 100 signs hung from the fence, all provided by local merchants and organizations, all congratulating Ripken.
The evening's master of ceremonies was Capt. Jim McMahan, (( owner of radio station WAMD, and originator of the idea of a Ripken gala. Home Team Sports provided the equipment for the big-screen telecast.
Aberdeen has been preparing for the moment for months. After two nights at the high school, festivities will be completed with a parade at 6 p.m. today from the high school to Festival Park for a ceremony centering on the Ripken Museum.
"It's all been so positive, so up beat," said city manager Peter Dacey. "The whole city has a real proud attitude. We have a slogan: 'Proud to be seen in Aberdeen.' This is an example of that."
Businesses showed their pride. "Atlantic Federal Salutes the Ripken Family." McDonald's: "Congratulations Cal." In the O'Conor, Piper & Flynn window is an orange No. 8 jersey and a sign: "Congratulations Cal, Our Hometown Son."
"Cal is an everyday guy who goes to work like everybody else," said Aberdeen JV baseball coach Charles "Rigor" Mortus. "A normal person can respect that."
This is a big week in Aberdeen. On one side of a sign outside the high school is the announcement: "Cal's Streak at AHS. Sept. 5 & 6. For Tick
ets, Call 272-5000." On the other side are the words: "First Day of School, Sept. 5."
Proceeds from two nights of TV viewings at the school -- people paid $3 apiece for admission -- will go to local civic efforts such as the Aberdeen High School Empty Goalpost Fund and the Ripken Museum. Thanks to the school fund, the football field now has new lights and new bleachers.
"We have $300,000 worth of improvements," said Chuck Jacobs, the Harford National Bank vice president, and self-professed "money guy" in the four-year fund-raising ef- fort.
"We're only $25,000 shy, with a year to go. The money coming in from the events for Cal will help."