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Giants send Cox into retirement

Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox waves to fans after a 3-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants in Game 4 of baseball's National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants on Monday, Oct. 11, 2010, in Atlanta.  (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Atlanta Braves manager Bobby Cox waves to fans after a 3-2 loss to the San Francisco Giants in Game 4 of baseball's National League Division Series against the San Francisco Giants on Monday, Oct. 11, 2010, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

ATLANTA -- Bobby Cox wouldn't allow himself to think about the end of his career before Monday night's game.

Now he has no choice.

After a half-century in baseball, most of it in uniform, Cox must move out of the dugout.

The San Francisco Giants tipped their caps to the Atlanta manager after sending Cox into retirement by beating the Braves in the best-of-five NL division series. The Giants won three of the four games in the series, but Cox fought to the end, refusing to look ahead to his retirement when there was still baseball to be played.

As the Giants celebrated on the field after their 3-2 win in Game 4, Braves fans chanted "Bobby! Bobby! Bobby!"

The Braves watched from the edge of the dugout as Cox came out and tipped his cap to the fans.

The Giants momentarily stopped their brief celebration, faced the Braves' dugout and tipped their caps to Cox.

Fans cheered and applauded as a tribute to Cox was played on the video board.

Then, minutes later, Cox and his players left an empty dugout.

He is retiring after 29 seasons as a major league manager, including 25 with the Braves and four with Toronto. He managed 16 postseason teams.

Cox wasn't the only longtime manager to retire this year. Three of his longtime rivals -- Joe Torre, Cito Gaston and Lou Piniella -- also retired.

Cox finished with 2,504 regular-season wins, fourth all-time behind Connie Mack, John McGraw and Tony La Russa. He had 158 regular-season ejections, the most among managers.

He led the Braves to a record 14 straight division championships, five NL championships and the 1995 World Series. This was his first wild-card team.

Cox's last game? He seemed surprised when asked before Monday's game if he had considered the possibility.

"That's the first time it's been brought up today, and I haven't thought about it," Cox said. "Trying to plan a trip for tomorrow, and get the times of a small workout here in the cages before we leave and things like that."

Cox said he had too much to think about after Sunday's 3-2 loss to the Giants. A win Monday would have meant a return trip to San Francisco, and there were plans to make and bags to pack.

There will be no trip west, no workouts for Cox and his team.

After more than 50 years in baseball as a player, coach, manager and general manager, Cox can look ahead to a consultant's role with the team. He says his role will be minor and will include visits with the organization's minor league players.

The Braves can move on with plans to hire Cox's replacement. Cox can turn his thoughts to plans for two cruises -- one bought by his wife, Pam, and one by his players. Pam prepaid for a cruise for the couple next April, perhaps as insurance against Cox changing his mind.

The players gave the 69-year-old Cox one final postseason as another going away present, ending a streak of four straight years out of the playoffs. Injuries to Chipper Jones, Martin Prado, Jair Jurrjens, Kris Medlen and others left the team unable to match the Giants.

There were tributes to Cox across the NL this season, and a big celebration at home for the end of the regular season. There was a big No. 6 cut into the centerfield grass for the final series of the season against the Phillies, but that was removed for the postseason.

Baseball came first, just as Cox wanted.