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All-star tribute begins

Ripken setting up a memorable MLB farewell

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If the past week is any indication, Cal Ripken's farewell tour should be quite a treat.

First, the retiring Orioles third baseman hits one out of the park in his final All-Star game and earns the MVP award for good measure. Then, he homers not once — but twice — Saturday night in his last regular-season game at Atlanta's Turner Field.

Even though he was wearing Baltimore's road grays, Ripken was coaxed out of the dugout both times by towel-waving Braves fans, who didn't mind a bit that he personally gave the home team a 4-1 loss Saturday night.

So, Cal, was that the first time you've given a curtain call on the road?

"Does the All-Star game count?" he asked with a grin.

Indeed, the Ripken lovefest began in earnest with his storybook performance Tuesday at Seattle's Safeco Field. He got a final inning at shortstop; was honored along with another retiring great, Tony Gwynn; and hit yet another dramatic home run that helped the American League win 4-1.

Ripken arrived in Atlanta two days later to more accolades. The Braves gave him a plaque and a $10,000 check for the foundation named in honor of Ripken's late father. The fans gave him a standing ovation each time he batted, hundreds of flashbulbs accompanying every swing.

"A lot of people came out to see him for the last time, and he definitely gave them their money's worth," manager Bobby Cox said. "That was nice of the fans. It didn't hurt our feelings."

Ripken homered for the first time since June 16, three days before announcing he would retire at the end of the season.

Ripken also extended his hitting streak to 15 games, his longest in nine years. He's hoping manager Mike Hargrove will provide plenty of playing time over the last 2 1/2 months of the season — the most fitting tribute of all to a guy who played in 2,632 consecutive games.

"I'd like to play more. But I understand the situation," Ripken said. "We're rebuilding and making decisions for the future. At the same time, my time is numbered.