Oct. 6, 7 or even 8 - Ripken finale not final

Conflict with Ravens arises

Sept. 16 tickets suddenly are golden

Terrorism Strikes America

September 15, 2001|By Joe Strauss | Joe Strauss,SUN STAFF

Even as most teams learned of their reconfigured schedules, the Orioles continue to wait for Major League Baseball to determine if there is a way to avoid rescheduling their season finale - and the final game of Cal Ripken's career - opposite a Ravens Oct. 7 home game.

A resolution is not expected until next week, according to club officials, but the Orioles have lobbied for their schedule to be condensed so their last game may be played on Saturday, Oct. 6, rather than as a traditional Sunday finale. The Orioles have even expressed a willingness to play on Monday, Oct. 8, the day before the rescheduled postseason, but that is a long-shot alternative at best.

Major League Baseball "understands the issue: How do you deal with a conflict with the Ravens?" chief operating officer Joe Foss said.

The issue arose Thursday after commissioner Bud Selig decided to postpone this weekend's schedule in the aftermath of Tuesday's terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

"The decision not to play games this weekend was the right one," Foss said. "I think the country isn't yet ready to return to normal. Hopefully, by the time Cal ends the season and his career in Baltimore, the country will feel a bit more like celebrating. However, given this tragedy, I don't think we can look at things the same - ever."

Whenever the dates are rescheduled, the Orioles yesterday announced that tickets for what would have been tomorrow's sold-out game against the Boston Red Sox will now be honored for the season's final game. Those holding tickets to the Sept. 23 game against the New York Yankees - originally scheduled as Ripken's final home game - will not be allowed exchanges.

Because of their conflict with the Ravens along with the celebration surrounding Ripken's retirement, the Orioles find themselves in a unique position they believe merits special relief.

Major League Baseball yesterday notified teams of its intention to reschedule six days' worth of lost games from Oct. 2-7. Oct. 1 would remain a universal day off. Clubs may release those dates as they see fit. The Orioles' schedule, however, likely won't be firmed until Monday.

Foss has discussed the team's predicament with Ravens president David Modell, whose team is scheduled for a 1 p.m. kickoff against the Tennessee Titans on Oct. 7. However, moving the Ravens game time is complicated by network contracts, and switching home dates with the Titans is virtually impossible because of the Titans' home game falling on a Monday night.

Barring relief from Major League Baseball or a change in the Ravens' kickoff from 1 p.m. to noon, the Orioles would likely start the Oct. 7 game at 9 p.m., with festivities beginning around 7:30 p.m.

The Orioles are further stymied by yesterday's announcement from Major League Baseball that games will not be played Oct. 1. This means there is no way the team can squeeze seven rescheduled games against the Toronto Blue Jays and Boston Red Sox into a five-day window.

Orioles director of public relations Bill Stetka said the team will petition the commissioner's office to allow the Blue Jays to play at Camden Yards and the Red Sox to begin their three-game road series against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays on Oct. 1. By doing so, the Orioles could begin their four-game series against the Red Sox on Oct. 4 and follow with a day-night doubleheader on either Oct. 5 or Oct. 6.

"Everybody else's schedule has been set," Stetka said. "All we've been told is there are some scheduling issues with the New York-based teams. ... and we have a conflict with the Ravens."

Another less likely possibility is the Orioles being allowed to spread seven games over seven days while completing their season on the same day as every other major-league club.

While a season finale played hours after a Ravens home game represents a worst-case scenario for the Orioles, Foss said the club's lobbying efforts are finished.

"We personally take our lead from the commissioner's office. We recognize the desires of any individual team do not compare to the level of complexity that this rescheduling poses," Foss said.

The Orioles have begun to receive an expected flood of calls protesting their decision not to honor Sept. 23 tickets for Ripken's final home game. Many of the calls came from fans who had either paid much more than face value for seats or made travel plans to witness the celebration. The Orioles are contemplating alternative arrangements - such as a Fan Appreciation Day - for Sept. 23.

"They have purchased tickets for the Yankee series. The circumstances of this international tragedy have caused baseball to change its schedule. The fairest and simplest way to accommodate all the fans is to transfer the games that were canceled into the final schedule as it plays out," Foss said.

The Orioles also announced yesterday a 1:25 p.m. game time for next Saturday against the Yankees; the Sept. 23 game will start at 7:05 p.m.

Tuesday's terrorist attack has muted much of the anticipation surrounding the rest of the season, including Ripken's farewell. While fulfilling several commitments related to his retirement, Ripken said yesterday that things have changed.

"I think things have a way of taking care of themselves," he said. "Baseball seems pretty insignificant right now. ... In the big picture, we just play a game. We provide some entertainment. In some ways, maybe you can come watch a game for a few hours and escape, laugh and feel good. But right now, it's very minuscule and very insignificant.

"I think we're searching for answers in the big picture. So when you think about baseball, it doesn't seem to matter much right now."

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