MINNEAPOLIS -- Cal Ripken can add another big number -- 3,000 -- to his Hall of Fame resume.
The Baltimore Orioles star, already renowned for playing a record 2,632 straight games, got hit No. 3,000 with his third single Saturday night in a 6-4 victory over Minnesota.
Ripken became the 24th player to reach the milestone, doing it a year after both Tony Gwynn and Wade Boggs joined the club.
''I was relieved, I felt a weight was lifted from my shoulders,'' Ripken said. ''I thought about how lucky you are and how you started.''
''It was a phenomenal experience, one I'm really glad is over,'' he said.
When the game ended, Ripken signed autographs for about 15 minutes for some of the fans who had given him a two-minute standing ovation. The gesture was reminiscent of the victory lap he took at Camden Yards after breaking Lou Gehrig's ''Iron Man'' streak.
''I tried to give back as much as I can and I thought it was right and appropriate to celebrate with the fans,'' he said. ''It was part of a moment. I wanted to sign as many autographs as I could and put a date on them.''
Ripken lined a clean single to center field off Twins reliever Hector Carrasco for No. 3,000. He was greeted at first base by coach and longtime teammate Eddie Murray, who also got his 3,000th hit at the Metrodome while playing for Cleveland in 1995.
''To meet Eddie at first base, that was a special moment,'' Ripken said. ''He said, 'Way to go, welcome to the club.'''
The 39-year-old Ripken shook hands with Twins first baseman Ron Coomer while the souvenir ball was retrieved by Baltimore's Will Clark.
Ripken took the ball, walked over to the first-base stands and flipped it underhand to his wife, Kelly, wearing a bright orange blazer and flanked by their two children.
Ripken returned to first base, took off his cap to acknowledge a standing ovation and then tapped his heart once as he mouthed the words ''Thank you'' to the crowd of 18,745.
As part of the celebration, the Orioles spilled out of the dugout to congratulate Ripken.
Said Twins coach Paul Molitor, eighth on the career list with 3,319 hits: ''Certain players, because of the way they handle themselves, seem to transcend whatever uniform they happen to be wearing. He definitely has the respect of all baseball fans across the country.''
Ripken entered the season nine hits shy of the mark, but was just 6-for-34 (.176) going into Saturday, the 2,800th game of his career.
He grounded out in his first at-bat, then singled cleanly to right in the fourth off Sean Bergman. In the fifth, Ripken hit a high bouncer that third baseman Corey Koskie fielded, but had no play on for an infield single.
Right before Ripken came to bat in the seventh, Twins manager Tom Kelly was booed when he went to the mound to make a pitching change. Carrasco relieved Travis Miller, and his first pitch went for a passed ball that scored Albert Belle and put the Orioles ahead 5-4.
Ripken singled right up the middle on the next pitch, a high fastball.
''He hit the best I had,'' Carrasco said.
In his last at-bat, Ripken flied out.
Ripken conquered a bad back and the butterflies that had stoked a season-long slump.
''You just have to deal with it, plow through and get those hits,'' he said recently. ''But I can see why someone would say the last few are the hardest ones to get.''
Ripken became the seventh player in major league history to get 3,000 hits and 400 home runs. He was the AL MVP in 1983 and 1991 and the Rookie of the Year in 1982.
Of the 24 players to get 3,000 hits, 10 have done it on the road. Ripken was born and raised in the Baltimore area, and Orioles fans were hoping to see him reach the mark at Camden Yards.
The Orioles play the Twins again Sunday before returning home to face Tampa Bay on Monday night.
''I think all of us wish it could have been done in Baltimore,'' Orioles manager Mike Hargrove said. ''But for him to go ahead and get all three of them tonight was fairly dramatic.''
The 17-time All-Star has always been fond on the Metrodome, where his .321 average is 43 points higher than his career mark.
Ripken played his 2,000th consecutive game at the Dome, on Aug. 1, 1994, on his way to breaking Gehrig's record a year later, a streak he said was easier to pursue than 3,000 hits.
Ripken is the third player to get his 3,000th hit at the 18-year-old Metrodome, the ballpark where it has happened more than anywhere else. Dave Winfield did it there on Sept. 16, 1993, and Murray did it on June 30, 1995.
It's also the fifth time the Twins have been involved with a 3,000th hit, tying the Cleveland Indians for the most. Rod Carew (Aug. 4, 1995) and Paul Molitor (Sept. 16, 1996) reached the mark on the road while with the Twins.
Ripken said he was eager to get the milestone out of the way so he could turn his attention toward a far more pressing goal: to stay healthy and duplicate the unprecedented offensive prowess he showed in 1999.
Ripken hit .340 with a .584 slugging percentage last year, both career highs, but he twice was placed on the disabled list -- for the first time in his career -- because of back pain and played in only 86 games.
The fact that Ripken reached No. 3,000 in a win made this moment even more special.
''I'm happy I got a few hits tonight,'' Ripken said.
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