For the first time in 16 years, Cal Ripken didn't know what to do with himself during a Baltimore Orioles baseball game.

He squirmed in the dugout. He watched from the bullpen. He shook hands with some fans and posed for pictures.For the first time since May 30, 1982, what Ripken didn't do was play.

After 16 years and 2,632 consecutive games, Ripken sat out Sunday night's game against the New York Yankees with just one week left in the season. It was the Orioles' final home game of the season, and the sellout crowd of 48,013 will remember it for one reason - Ripken's absence.

He ended his amazing streak on his own terms and own turf.

Less than an hour before the game, Ripken walked into manager Ray Miller's office before the game with a simple, stunning message: "I think the time is right."

Although the assertion took Miller and several of Ripken's teammates by surprise, the decision was made several days earlier following a conversation with his wife, Kelly.

"I was going to take the last day of the season off in Boston, but I thought about it a long time and decided if this is going to end, let it end where it started - in Baltimore," Ripken said.

He shared the secret with his closest friend on the team, center fielder Brady Anderson.

"Yesterday was, retroactively, the important day because that's the last day of the streak," Anderson said. "People will remember today, but yesterday is the one that counted. I kept my bat and a couple of balls from that game."

Throughout his record streak, Ripken insisted that he was doing nothing more than showing up for work and doing his job. He came to work as usual Sunday, only this time he didn't get his uniform dirty.

That doesn't mean he still doesn't consider himself the Orioles' regular third baseman, and he sure didn't like the feeling of watching his teammates play.

"I'm used to being inside the game and looking out, and today I was outside looking in. Not being a part of it is a strange feeling, and now that I know what it feels like, I don't want to sit and watch a game anymore," he said.

"I still consider myself an everyday player. I plan on coming out every single day and proving that on a daily basis," Ripken added, saying he will start tonight in Toronto.

But it won't be the same because the streak is over. Ripken has plenty of emotional moments at Camden Yards, and this night was high on the list.

"It's not a sad moment. I'm not going to sit up here and bawl my eyeballs out for you - that's for sure," he told reporters. "I might hold it back until I get home."

With the Orioles out of playoff contention - their 5-4 loss officially eliminated them from the wild-card race - Ripken decided to end his incredible run.

"What Cal did is so unbelievable. That's one record I do think that will be around for a generation," baseball commissioner Bud Selig said. "What he's done, he's done a great thing for baseball."

The end came during a magical season that has featured the historic home run chase between Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa, a perfect game by David Wells and the Yankees' pursuit of the AL record for victories.

There had been recent talk that Ripken, 38, would volunteer to end the streak, which broke Lou Gehrig's longstanding record of 2,130. He was replaced by Ryan Minor, who went 1-for-4.

"The emphasis should be on the team," Ripken said. "There have been times during the streak when the emphasis was on the streak. I was never comfortable with that. It was time to move the focus back to the team."

One out into the game, when it became evident that Ripken would not be playing, all of the Yankees walked to the top step of the dugout and applauded.

Ripken emerged from the Orioles dugout, tipped his hat toward the Yankees and stepped back down to the bench. With the sellout crowd standing and cheering, Ripken came out again and bowed to his fans.

"I thought we should pay tribute to what he's done for the game," New York's Joe Girardi said.

Ripken pulled himself a week before finishing his 16th straight season of playing every game. By doing so, he avoided yet another winter - and spring training - filled with questions about the streak.

Ripken, who went 0-for-4 against the Yankees on Saturday and was mired in an 0-for-12 skid, was batting .273 with 14 home runs and 61 RBIs.



The top 10

Major league baseball's top ten in consecutive games played.

1. Cal Ripken 2,632

2. Lou Gehrig 2,130

3. Everett Scott 1,307

4. Steve Garvey 1,207

5. Billy Williams 1,117

6. Joe Sewell 1,103

7. Stan Musial 895

8. Ed Yost 829

9. Gus Suhr 822

10. Nellie Fox 798