The Orioles are ensuring that Cal Ripken doesn't go quietly into retirement.
The last month of Ripken's career will include a time change for his final game at Camden Yards, allowing for more national exposure, along with a series of on-field presentations, fan giveaways and special promotions during the last two homestands beginning on Tuesday.
Commemorative logos will appear on everything from uniform sleeves to home plate, giving the Orioles and their ballpark a playoff feel during another fourth-place season.
The Sept. 23 game against the New York Yankees that concludes the Orioles' home schedule and Ripken's playing days at Camden Yards, has been moved from 1:35 p.m. to 7:05 p.m. and will air nationwide on ESPN2 (locally on Comcast SportsNet and Channel 54). It follows the network's telecast of Tony Gwynn's final home game at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, producing a sentimental doubleheader showcasing two certain Hall of Famers.
"These games represent great moments in baseball history, so it is important for Major League Baseball to give as many fans as possible the opportunity to view the final home games of these two players who have meant so much to the game, their franchises and their communities," commissioner Bud Selig said. "I am grateful to the Padres and Orioles, as well as the respective visiting teams, the Giants and Yankees, for graciously agreeing to change the start times of these important games."
On-field ceremonies honoring Ripken will begin at 6 p.m. and will be broadcast locally by Comcast SportsNet and Channel 54.
"The impact of Cal playing his final home game after 21 years in an Orioles uniform is significant, not only to fans in our region, but to fans across the country," said Joe Foss, the club's vice chairman and chief operating officer. "That has been evident as Cal has made his final trip with the Orioles to other cities. We're excited to be able to have the Orioles' and Cal's last home game on national television."
Yesterday's announcement came on the sixth anniversary of the date Ripken broke Lou Gehrig's consecutive-games record. No time was announced for the Sept. 22 game, which depends on whether Fox telecasts it nationally.
Also uncertain is whether Ripken will serve as grand marshal the next day for the MBNA 400 Winston Cup race at Dover (Del.) Downs International Speedway, which would require a helicopter ride to Camden Yards for the game. A cross-country flight to Oakland caused lower-back stiffness that has prevented Ripken from playing in the field since Aug. 30, and he might not want to risk compounding the problem.
As for the Orioles' plans for Ripken during the Yankees series, many of the pre-game details aren't being revealed "because we want Cal's final weekend at Camden Yards to be a surprise for him and for our fans," said Julie Wagner, director of community relations.
However, the club did announce the field will undergo some changes, with the bases featuring No. 8, Orioles, MLB and Ripken retirement logos. An on-deck circle with the No. 8 in black and orange border will be used in front of the Orioles' dugout during the remaining home games leading to the Yankees series, when the club will go a step further by changing both circles to include the retirement logo. During the final weekend, fan giveaways will include retirement logo patches and a poster of Ripken baseball cards.
Fans also can visit the World Trade Center at the Inner Harbor to sign an oversized "Thanks, Cal" card that will be presented to Ripken during the final weekend.