NFL, baseball step back, reflect

Schedule changes push Ripken's finale to Camden Yards

Last game to be Oct. 6 or 7

Orioles may seek to avoid conflict with Ravens game

Terrorism Strikes America

Baseball

September 14, 2001|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig's decision to postpone six days' worth of games because of Tuesday's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington means that Orioles third baseman Cal Ripken will play the final seven games of his career at Camden Yards.

All series scheduled for this weekend - including the Orioles' four-game set against the Boston Red Sox - were postponed, but Selig said baseball will preserve a 162-game schedule. That means the Orioles will make up three games against the Toronto Blue Jays and four against the Red Sox from Oct. 1 to Oct. 6 or 7.

Ripken's final game at Camden Yards had been scheduled for Sept. 23 against the New York Yankees and his final game before retiring was set for Sept. 30 at Yankee Stadium.

The news arrived in somber tones yesterday as the Orioles went through a perfunctory workout at Camden Yards.

"I'm a little numb to the whole situation," Ripken said. "I think in time things will work out and we'll make a decision on how best to proceed. Those things will take care of themselves, but right now it's hard to get psyched up about that."

Numerous loose ends remained yesterday afternoon, as team officials scrambled to reschedule ceremonies connected with Ripken's farewell in addition to the logistics involving game times and ticket exchanges.

"The Orioles will announce the details of their makeup schedule, including dates, times and ticket policy, as soon as they are finalized," said Joe Foss, the club's chief operating officer.

When Ripken's final game is played remains unclear, however. The only certainty is that it will come Oct. 6 or 7 against the Red Sox during a four-game series.

The Orioles are faced with a logistical nightmare that has prevented them from advancing any framework for the past week's schedule. A teleconference scheduled for today may clarify those issues, according to club officials.

As is, the commissioner's office has yet to notify teams of when specific games will be rescheduled. The Orioles find themselves in the most complicated situation of any team because of a potential conflict between their season finale and the Ravens' Oct. 7 home game against the Tennessee Titans.

A 1 p.m. Ravens kickoff would force the Orioles to set their first pitch for no earlier than 8 p.m. because of traffic concerns. The chances of the Ravens and Titans swapping home dates is compromised because their divisional rematch is set for Monday Night Football on Nov. 12.

"We could start at 7 p.m., but the football game complicates the traffic situation," said Orioles director of public relations Bill Stetka. "If we were to play on a Sunday night, there is no conceivable way to start before 8 p.m., maybe later."

The idea is distasteful enough to the Orioles that they might lobby Major League Baseball to allow the club to play its last game on Oct. 6.

"We may want to play Saturday to avoid this mess and they might plan on it, but nobody has communicated that to us," Stetka added.

Major League Baseball chose not to set dates and times in conjunction with Selig's announcement yesterday.

Ripken, meanwhile, said he preferred finishing his career at Camden Yards, but he did so only grudgingly, as one would expect given the circumstances that necessitated the scheduling change.

"In a perfect world, I'd like to celebrate the end with the people who've been with you the whole time ... your hometown," he said.

The Orioles worked out yesterday after a two-day hiatus. While every team member participated, the mood was decidedly reserved, even distracted. Before yesterday's announcement by Selig, tonight's scheduled starter, Jason Johnson, had asked manager Mike Hargrove to bump him from the assignment.

"I wasn't going to pitch on a national day of prayer," Johnson said. "I'm not going to play in a major-league baseball game at a time of mourning."

Hargrove confirmed Johnson's request but described it as a moot point given Selig's ruling.

Ripken slipped from the clubhouse without comment after yesterday's workout, but beforehand he addressed the possibility of playing his final game at home.

Calling the situation "very strange ... very weird," Ripken said of the schedule pause, "Everybody has been shaken to the core. I would imagine everybody thinks in their own perspective how insignificant a lot of things are that you do.

"Baseball is a great sport. It's fun and it's entertaining. It provides a service to society. But in the grand scheme of things, it's minuscule. It's insignificant. You're thinking about what has happened and where we are and you really don't get too energized about baseball."

Players approached yesterday's workout as more of an obligation than a release. The 90-minute session included batting practice along with side sessions and fielding drills for pitchers.

The Orioles intend to fly Monday to Toronto, where they'll resume the season Tuesday night. Team officials expect what has previously been a quick or nonexistent stoppage at customs to become much more elaborate. Players were instructed to carry a passport or birth certificate, something normally unnecessary.

"It's already weird," said outfielder Brady Anderson. "It'll still be weird on Monday."

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