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Last Game for the 'Iron Man'
Cal Ripken Jr. Will Retire After His Final Home Game on Saturday

View a timeline of Ripken's career

Westervelt audio Listen to Scott Simon discuss Ripken's career with 10-year-old fan Jeffrey Flax.

Cal Ripken Jr.
Cal Ripken Jr. after being named MVP in his final All-Star Game. July 10, 2001.
Photo: Reuters

Oct. 5, 2001 -- This weekend marks the end of one of the most remarkable careers in American sports history. Baseball great Cal Ripken Jr., the Baltimore Orioles' enduring 'Iron Man,' will play the last game of his career on Saturday night. He will retire after playing his final home game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards against the division rival Boston Red Sox. This year was his 21st season in the major leagues.

Ripken is best known for breaking Lou Gehrig's streak of 2,130 consecutive games played. On Sept. 6, 1995, he surpassed Gehrig's seemingly unbreakable 56-year-old record before a roaring Baltimore crowd and a national television audience. Ripken voluntarily ended his streak in September 1998. The new record now stands at 2,632 games.

In a League of His Own

Played 2,632 consecutive
games, (1982-98) surpassing
Lou Gehrig's record by 502

Two MVP awards, (1983,
1991) Two Gold Glove awards
(1991, 1992)

Owns 11 fielding records

18 consecutive All-Star
appearances, two All-Star MVP

Played 8,243 consecutive
innings, (1982-87) a major
league record

Hit 345 home runs as a
shortstop, most in the league

First went on the disabled
list in 1999, nearly two
decades after his major
league debut

For almost two decades, his baseball career epitomized endurance and persistence. In an era where it is increasingly rare for a baseball player to participate in all 162 games that make up a single season, Ripken's record spanned 17 seasons. He played nearly every inning of those games. And he spent most of the streak at shortstop, one of the most demanding positions in the lineup.

Beyond 'The Streak,' the 41-year-old Ripken piled up a variety of impressive statistics. Among them: he is one of only seven players in major league history with more than 3,000 hits and 400 home runs, and one of four who have won All-Star Most Valuable Player awards twice. His 345 home runs as a shortstop also set a league record.

As Ripken approaches the end of his famed career, he has drawn stirring tributes from baseball fans, with a standing ovation nearly every time he comes to bat. After all, how often do you meet a man -- regardless of his profession -- who didn't skip a single day's work for 17 years?

This weekend, as the 'Iron Man' bids farewell to his hometown fans and hangs up his number "8" Orioles' jersey, NPR will look at Ripken's extraordinary career and achievements.

Timeline of Cal Ripken Jr.'s Career

Aug. 10, 1981: Makes major league debut as a pinch-runner for the Baltimore Orioles.

May 30, 1982: His 2,632 consecutive-games streak starts against the Toronto Blue Jays.

June 5, 1982: His 8,243 consecutive-innings streak begins in a game against the Minnesota Twins.

July 1, 1982: After 27 games at third base, Orioles Manager Earl Weaver moves Ripken to shortstop.

Off-season 1982: Wins American League Rookie of Year award.

Oct. 2, 1983: Regular season ends with Ripken's streak at 280 games.

Oct. 16, 1983: The Baltimore Orioles win World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies in five games.

Off-season 1983: Wins American League MVP award with .318 batting average, 27 homers and 102 RBIs.

Sept. 30, 1984 - Oct. 5, 1986: Consecutive-games streak continues.

Sept. 14, 1987: Consecutive-innings streak ends at 8,243 when Orioles Manager Earl Weaver replaces Ripken with Ron Washington at shortstop in the eighth inning.

June 25, 1988: Plays in 1,000th consecutive game when Orioles travel to Boston.

Aug. 18, 1989: Plays in 1,208th consecutive game to surpass Steve Garvey for the third-longest consecutive games streak.

June 12, 1990: Plays in 1,308th consecutive game to move ahead of Everett Scott, taking second place on the all-time list.

Off-season 1991: Wins his second American League MVP award with .323 batting average, 34 homers and 114 RBIs.

June 6, 1993: Suffers a twisted right knee in a game against the Seattle Mariners. "It was the closest I've come to not playing," Ripken later said.

June 15, 1993: Hits 278th homer as a shortstop, a new major league record.

May 24, 1994: Hits 300th career homer in a game against Milwaukee.

Aug. 1, 1994: Streak extends to 2,000 consecutive games when the Baltimore Orioles play Minnesota.

Aug. 12, 1994: Players go on strike and the owners cancel the season one month later. Regular season ends with streak at 2,009 games.

Sept. 5, 1995: Ties Lou Gehrig's record of 2,130 consecutive games.

Sept. 6, 1995: Sets a new record of 2,131 consecutive games. Receives a 22-minute ovation from the crowd.

July 14, 1996: Plays in 2,216th consecutive games and sets a new world record. The previous record was 2,215, held by Sachio Kinugasa of the Hiroshima Carp in Japan's Central League.

July 15, 1996: Starts at third base for the first time since June 30, 1982. He had made 2,216 consecutive starts at shortstop, a major league record for any position.

April 25, 1998: Marks 2,500th straight game as Orioles play the Oakland Athletics at Camden Yards.

Sept. 20, 1998: Streak ends at 2,632 consecutive game, as Orioles play the New York Yankees.

April, 1999: A back injury puts him on the disabled list for the first time in his career.

Sept. 2, 1999: Hits 400th career home run.

April 15, 2000: Gets 3,000th major league hit.

June 17, 2001: Announces his intention to retire at the end of the season.

Oct. 6, 2001: Ripken plays his final game.

Other Resources

The Only Way I Know
The Only Way I Know by Cal Ripken Jr. and Mike Bryan
Photo: Penguin USA

• Visit Cal Ripken Jr.'s official Web site

• Check out the Baltimore Orioles' Web site, which offers Ripken's career highlights and year-by-year statistics.

• Visit the Ripken Museum in the Ripken family's hometown Aberdeen, Md.

• Learn more about Major League Baseball

• Visit the Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, New York