Sunday, September 29, 2013


Houston Astros present Mariano with collage of career highlights


9/29/13, Mariano Rivera and Roger Clemens look at collage painting presented by Astros to Rivera in honor of his career, Yankees leading 5-1 in 14th, final score, ap

9/29/13, Rivera hugs Roger Clemens as Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow looks on before Yankees-Houston Astros game, the last game of the season, final 5-1 Yankees in 14, getty

9/29/13, Rivera, Clemens, Torre, Houston Astros honor Mo on his last day.

Date unknown, ap photo via LoHud Yankee blog, 9/29/13

Saturday, September 28, 2013


Mariano in Houston


9/27/13, Rivera fan signs in Houston, ap

9/28/13, Rivera signs for fans in Houston, ap

9/28/13, Rivera signs for fans in Houston, ap

9/28/13, Rivera signs for fans in Houston, ap

9/27/13, Rivera throws before the game in Houston, ap

9/28/13, Mo and Cano in Houston before the game, getty


9/29/13, Rivera and Arod in dugout in Houston, 9th inning, final in 14, 5-1 Yankees, getty


Friday, September 27, 2013


Newsday back page, 'Magic MOment,' after Rivera's last night in Yankee Stadium


Fri., 9/27/13, Newsday back page, 'Magic MOment,' Mariano Rivera with Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter on the mound in the 9th inning for Rivera's last night at Yankee Stadium. final 4-0 Rays

9/26/13, "Closing Scene: Hugs and Tears in Rivera’s Last Home Game," NY Times, David Waldstein

"It was supposed to be a meaningless game, the first at Yankee Stadium in 20 years, but there was nothing meaningless about it for Mariano Rivera or the announced crowd of 48,675 that came to say goodbye to an icon.

In another emblematic moment in the Yankees’ storied history, Rivera made an emotional farewell appearance at the Stadium on Thursday night, breaking down in tears on the mound in the embrace of Andy Pettitte, who had come to take Rivera out of the game. 

“I knew that was the last time,” Rivera said. “It was a totally different feeling. Something I’ve never felt before. I don’t know how I got those two guys out.” 

After pitching his final one and a third innings at Yankee Stadium in his 19th and final season, Rivera, baseball’s career saves leader, stood and watched as Pettitte and Derek Jeter, his longtime teammates, came to the mound as emissaries for Manager Joe Girardi. 

Before the ninth inning of what turned into a 4-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays, Girardi went to Laz Diaz, the home-plate umpire, and asked for permission to let Pettitte and Jeter make the pitching change, and Diaz agreed. 

As he walked to the mound alongside Jeter, Pettitte tapped his right arm to signal for the replacement pitcher, Matt Daley, then took the ball from Rivera’s hand. Rivera wrapped his arms around Pettitte, who is also retiring after the season, and buried his face in his shoulder, sobbing. 

“I didn’t say anything at first, and I didn’t expect for him to be quite so emotional,” Pettitte said. “He broke down and gave me a bear hug, and I bear-hugged him back. I mean, he was really crying. He was weeping, and I could feel him crying on me.” 

With a gentle prod from Jeter, Rivera finally looked up, hugged Jeter and walked off the mound as the fans, the Yankees and the Rays stood and cheered. 

“I’m glad Joe let us be a part of it,” Jeter said, “because we’ve been like brothers for 21 years.”
After hugging all his teammates in the dugout, Rivera emerged for one last wave to the sold-out Stadium. But the tears did not end there. 

Girardi, whose contract runs out after the season, broke down in tears during a postgame news conference as he recalled his career with Rivera, which evolved from battery mate (Girardi was Rivera’s catcher from 1996 to 1999) to coach and finally to manager. 

“This is as good as it gets, and it’s probably as special a going-out for any player I’ve ever seen,” Girardi said, adding, “One thing about our fans, they understand what Mo has meant to this organization.” 

Rivera was not the only one to be saluted. After Daley recorded the final out of the ninth inning, the Rays waited to take the field as the fans chanted for Pettitte, who at first was reluctant to emerge from the dugout, having already had an emotional farewell when he pitched Sunday. But when he saw that the Rays would not take the field until he came out, he finally emerged and waved. 

“Sunday was incredible and great closure for me,” Pettitte said, “and this was a bonus. It’s kind of bittersweet about the playoff chances being done, but I don’t think it would have been able to go down like it did tonight if we were still right there and fighting for it.” 

Rivera’s final entry onto the Yankee Stadium field was dramatic. As the bullpen door swung open with one out in the eighth, a recording of the longtime announcer Bob Sheppard’s voice announced his entrance into the game. Rivera trotted across the outfield grass for the final time as the crowd saluted him with a thundering standing ovation while the familiar strains of his theme song, Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” rang out. 

As Rivera warmed up, the entire Rays team stood at its dugout and clapped along with the fans, eliciting a tip of the cap from Rivera, who then got down to business. 

He calmly recorded the two final outs of the eighth and then the first two outs in the ninth — another perfect outing, if not a save — even as the Yankees lost. 

After the eighth, Rivera retreated to the trainers’ room and as he applied heat to his arm to keep it warm, he started to have a flood of memories, flashbacks from his days in the minor leagues, through all five World Series championships he helped the Yankees win, his ascendancy as he became hailed as the game’s greatest closer, and finally to that very moment. 

“I was being bombarded with emotions and feelings,” Rivera said. 

Perhaps for the first time in his career, he wondered if he would be able to summon the composure to go out to the mound and pitch well. He did, and his final pitch at Yankee Stadium was a cut fastball to Yunel Escobar, who popped up to Robinson Cano. 

After the game, Rivera waited several moments in the dugout before walking to the mound, kicking up some dirt and scooping it up. It provided a small memento for a remarkable career....

But it was also unusual that Thursday night’s game had no bearing on the Yankees’ season. For the first time since 1993, the Yankees were eliminated from the postseason before their final home game.

Still, a huge crowd was on hand, and many of those in attendance came specifically to say goodbye to Rivera. Hand-painted signs and Panamanian flags dotted the stands, and fans in the bleachers peered down into the bullpen to get a glimpse of him.

Rivera first appeared briefly in the bullpen in the top of the seventh inning, wearing a jacket and watching Dellin Betances warm up. As soon as Rivera shed his jacket, the fans began chanting his name and singing out, “We want Mo.”

For one last time, they got him. 

“To be able to finish the way the Lord allowed me to finish, it was spectacular,” Rivera said. “Thank God for that.”"


9/26/13, "Mariano gets sendoff befitting the best ever," Mike Vaccaro, NY Post. photo via NY Post

"The first stirrings arrived at 9:18 p.m., the observant sectors of the crowd of 48,675 noticing a tall figure in the distant bullpen loosening his arms, the same ritual Mariano Rivera had conducted before each of his previous 1,114 appearances, shaking them like a couple of fire hoses.

The chant began a few seconds later.


By 9:20 he was throwing in earnest, and the press box announcer dutifully reported, “Joining Matt Daley in the Yankees bullpen …” and a few more thousand spectators fixed their glances on the mound out beyond the 385-foot sign in right-center field, beyond the red sign for New York Presbyterian.

The season, as a baseball poet once said, was already exhausted. The ballgame, No. 159, was rapidly spinning out of control for the Yankees, already down 2-0, Tampa runners scattered on the basepaths. In the first-base dugout, Joe Girardi frowned: What to do? He wanted to reserve the ninth inning for Rivera.

But nobody wanted to see him walk into an 8-0 blowout.

“It’s not hard to pick up the phone,” Girardi would say later, “and wonder who you’d want to call.”

It was 4-0 when Girardi hopped out of the dugout at last, two more men on base, only one out, the crowd about to boo poor Dellin Betances. But Girardi changed the mood. He was getting Betances, and he was pointing to the bullpen, and the thunder landed at once.

So that would be Mariano Rivera’s final uncredited save in The Bronx, saving an overmatched kid from wrath, reminding everyone that they’d come for a celebration. Soon Bob Sheppard’s preserved voice came tumbling out of the P.A. speakers: “COMING IN TO PITCH FOR THE YANKEES, NUMBER FORTY-TWOOOO …”

It was 9:27 p.m. There wasn’t one occupied seat in the entire house, and that included the Tampa Bay dugout, where all 44 men with “RAYS” across their jerseys were themselves standing, saluting, applauding. This game, this outcome, still mattered for them, still mattered to their playoff hopes.

The Yankees? Officially this was the first meaningless game played in the Bronx since Oct. 3, 1993, Yankees 2, Tigers 1. And yet somehow, suddenly, these next few moments felt as meaningful as any yet housed in the new yard. Delmon Young flied to left on the first pitch Rivera threw. Sam Fuld bounced back to Rivera a few seconds later.

One more jam crushed. One more inning closed.

One more to go. Or so it seemed.

The Yankees threatened in the bottom of the eighth but in keeping with their year, it was an idle threat. Some booed the futility out of a sense of duty and so nobody much noticed Girardi consulting the umpiring crew, letting them in on one of the great bursts of baseball inspiration ever. Rivera jogged to the mound.


Jose Lobaton bounced another one back to Rivera. On his 13th pitch + every one of which, duly noted by the big scoreboard in center field, was labeled: CUTTER — he ran one in on Yunel Escobar, and he popped it meekly to Robinson Cano. Four up. Four down. Perfect. Pristine.

And one more surprise.

Now, out from the dugout, out from a thousand shared memories, hundreds of shared victories, five shared championships, came Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte, both cloaked in blue hooded sweatshirts on this frosty fall night. This was Girardi’s scheme: Let Rivera’s longest contemporaries, his dearest comrades, take him back to the dugout with them.

It was a genius plan. The umpires, to their credit, agreed. The Rays, again, stood in front of their dugout and applauded wildly.

“Thank God they came out,” Rivera would say. “I’m not sure I would have made it on my own.”
Rivera — who famously collapsed in a puddle of tears and emotion on the mound across the street seconds after the Aaron Boone Homer won the ’03 ALCS — now fell into Pettitte’s arms, sobbing. Pettitte squeezed him.

“It’s been an honor to play alongside you,” Pettitte said, needing to say something before he lost it, too. Together, the three iconic Yankees returned to the dugout. And by then, Girardi was gone, too, the tough-guy skipper weeping openly and not minding even a little bit.

“He made my job fun,” Girardi would say. “He made my job easy. And he made all of our lives better.”

Later, Rivera would return to the mound one last time, grab a handful of dirt, take one final look around, enjoy one last roar from an adoring crowd. One last time, Rivera was reminded how much he meant to this game.

And also, tellingly, how much the game meant to him."



Rivera's last night at Yankee Stadium


9/26/13, Rivera's last entrance from Yankee bullpen, Getty. final 4-0 Rays

9/26/13, "The crowd stands, cheers and takes photos as New York Yankees relief pitcher Mariano Rivera enters the game against the Tampa Bay Rays during the eighth inning at Yankee Stadium in New York. It was Rivera's final appearance at the Stadium," Reuters.

9/26/13, Pettitte and Jeter relieve Rivera in the 9th on his last night in Yankee Stadium, Reuters

9/26/13, Rivera leaves the field in the 9th for the last time at Yankee Stadium, Getty

9/26/13, Rivera leaps to catch a ball hit by Tampa Bay Rays batter Jose Lobaton in the 9th. Rivera threw Lobaton out,  Reuters. final 4-0 Rays

 Above 10 pictures by AP, 9/26/13

9/26/13, Rivera goes through bullpen door at Yankee Stadium for last time, getty (will try and get link back)

9/26/13, Rivera leaves the field with dirt from the mound in his right hand, reuters

9/26/13, Catcher JR Murphy, Rivera, and Pettitte, getty


9/27/13, "Mariano Rivera's Goodbye Turns Us All Into Blubbering Children," Deadspin, Bert Petchesky

MLB videos at link




Thursday, September 26, 2013


Rivera last night at Yankee Stadium before the game


9/26/13, Rivera walks onto field during last night at Yankee Stadium, getty

9/26/13, Rivera heads for clubhouse after pregame presentation on his last night at Yankee Stadium, reuters

More pictures from Rivera's last night at Yankee Stadium



MLB places full page ads in 4 newspapers in honor of Mariano Rivera's last game at Yankee Stadium, 9/26/13


"Mariano Rivera will suit up at Yankee Stadium for the final time in his illustrious career Thursday night as the Yankees take on the Tampa Bay Rays. A full-page ad commissioned by Major League Baseball and signed by Bud Selig will appear Thursday in USA TODAY, the New York Daily News, the New York Post, and Metro New York." photo gallery

Here's a brief video montage tribute produced by MLB Video. 

9/25/13, "MLB honors Mariano Rivera with full-page ad in four newspapers," USA Today, Nick Schwartz

Wednesday, September 25, 2013


National Anthem on Mo's second to last night at Yankee Stadium


9/25/13, Photographing Mariano during National Anthem before game v Tampa Bay Rays, final score 8-3 Tampa Bay, reuters

9/25/13, Andy Pettitte walks onto the field to be honored by Jeter and Rivera, getty


Tuesday, September 24, 2013


#42 in the dugout before game v Tampa Bay Rays


9/24/13, Mariano Rivera in Yankee dugout prior to start of game v Tampa Bay Rays, reuters


Sunday, September 22, 2013


Jeff Nelson article on Rivera in NY Daily News

9/21/13, "Ex-Yankees reliever Jeff Nelson says it didn't take long to see the greatness in Mariano Rivera," by / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

"Nelson, who pitched with Rivera in the Yankees bullpen from 1996-2000, and again in 2003, calls the retiring closer the greatest Yankee he played with or against."

"Pitching in the same bullpen with Mariano Rivera for five years, it was easy to see why he’s the greatest closer in the history of baseball.
That greatness, however, was evident to me before we ever suited up in the same uniform.

In 1995, while pitching for the Seattle Mariners, I saw Mariano pitch against us during the American League Division Series. He came into Game 2 in the 12th inning and pitched 3 1 / 3 innings of shutout ball, striking out five to earn the win.

I heard Tino Martinez and the other hitters talk about facing him and they were amazed. It’s a good thing Buck Showalter didn’t use him in big situations — he was still a young pitcher, one that had struggled as a starter that season — or the Yankees would have beaten us in that series.

When I joined the Yankees in 1996, it didn’t take long to see how special he was. You can never project what a guy’s career is going to be like by the time he retires, but even in ’96 when he was throwing two unhittable innings just about every time out, I thought, “as long as he can stay healthy, he’s going to be dominant for a long time.” Aside from that knee injury last year, he’s been very fortunate and very durable. Mariano was going two innings at a time, taking a day or two off and then doing it again to get the ball to John Wetteland. In baseball, you need everybody to win. There’s not one player who can do it by himself. But if we didn’t have Mariano, we probably don’t win all those championships. He was just that dominant.

He repeated his mechanics every time and he’s probably one of the best fielding pitchers I’ve ever seen. Once that cutter came into play, it was all he threw and nobody could touch him. He was so smooth. The ball would just get on hitters with that late life. Guys just couldn’t hold off of it. We always loved watching managers send up lefthanded pinch-hitters. All it did was create more firewood.

Wetteland had a great year for us in 1996 and played a big role in our World Series win over the Braves. But once he became a free agent, we knew we had a closer waiting in the wings. Nobody knew what he would go on to do, but seeing Mariano’s dominance in ’96, you knew it was his time. The greatest thing about a reliever, especially him, is not showing emotion.

Whether he gives up the game — which is a rarity — or he saves a game, you never see one side or the other. He’s not a rah-rah guy when he wins, and he doesn’t put his head between his legs and walk off the mound when he loses. Nothing bothers him. He can blow a big game, then come back and convert his next 10 opportunities with ease.

Keep in mind, it isn’t like he did this in Atlanta or Baltimore; he did it in the most high-profile city in all of sports. When Mr. Steinbrenner was around, you knew if you messed up, he would let you have it. It was almost automatic that you would be on the back page.

Mariano’s first year in the closer role, he gave up that huge home run to Sandy Alomar Jr. in the ALDS and we lost to the Indians. Then he came back in 1998 and we won 125 games, largely because of him.

A lot of that credit has to go to Joe Torre, who didn’t have a doghouse and kept throwing him out there as he learned to be a closer. That’s important, keep putting him in that situation and believing in him, the same way he did with Derek Jeter when he gave him the shortstop job in 1996. Mariano was his guy and he knew that was going to be his job. It makes it a little easier to take when you mess up because you know you’re going to be in the same situation. Mariano knew that Joe had that confidence in him.

Mariano has always been a very quiet, very business-like guy. When a game was close, he was as focused as anybody I’ve ever seen. We all were. After the fifth inning, Mariano, Mike Stanton and I would start focusing on who we were going to pitch against, getting ourselves prepared mentally.

There were times that I got to see the lighter side of Mariano, too. When it was a blowout, we could have some fun down there. You would see him join in some of the reindeer games, have fun and laugh. In the bullpen, you really don’t talk a whole lot of baseball. The game is tough enough. If you’re constantly in that intense state, you’ll drive yourself crazy.

When I think of Mariano, I see him raising his arms after the World Series wins. Every other time, you wouldn’t see any emotion out of him on the mound either way. He’s the same guy all the time. I can’t think of anyone else that shows no emotion on the mound whether it’s getting mad at yourself or pumping your fist after a big out.

Nobody can ever duplicate the cutter he has; you can try, but everybody has a different release on the baseball. For me, his ability to overcome adversity is what makes him who he is.

Think about his blown saves in the postseason against the Indians, Diamondbacks and Red Sox; he bounced back each time and continued to be as dominant as ever. Most pitchers never get over those types of events. When they say there’s ice running through your veins, he’s the perfect example.

It was an honor to pitch before him. It made it easier knowing you had a guy like him behind you because you wanted to do your job to get him the ball.

Mariano helped teach me how to handle New York, how to have tough skin. I didn’t read the paper or listen to sports radio, because I already knew what I did in the game. It was more handling the city and the expectations. New York is the best place to pitch in all of baseball. You have pride putting on the pinstripes, and you want to do it the way Derek Jeter or Mariano Rivera do it. If you can handle adversity here, you can handle anything.

Watching Mariano pitch Sunday, he’s lost a few miles on his fastball and he moves the ball around a little more, but the mechanics have stayed the same. He’s lost some hair, but everything else looks the same. We’ll never see a closer like him again.

It’s a great honor to share this day with him at Yankee Stadium. He’s the greatest Yankee that I have ever played with and against."

"Jeff Nelson pitched with Mariano Rivera in the Yankees bullpen from 1996-2000, and again in 2003."


Ed. note: Please excuse unpleasant white patch behind most of this post which was put there by hackers. Imagine anyone thinking a blog this small merits hacking.



Marty Noble on Rivera

9/22/13, "No player was ever better at his craft than Mo," Marty Noble,

"Rivera's work as a closer unmatched by anyone at any other position."

"Unless the Yankees defy the odds and the Gods, the unparalleled career of Mariano Rivera has one week remaining; so it's about time somebody put him in his place.

He is the king of the hill, top of the list and A No. 1, not necessarily in that order. The signature Sinatra song that has followed each of Rivera's 488 games finished in the Bronx provides those rankings. And who are we to dispute Ol' Blue Eyes?

Mine is merely one of ninety-twelve thousand assessments that have Sandman ranked higher than Eck, Sutter, Goose, Quiz, Izzy, Rollie, Rags, Billy Wags, Johnny Franco, Teke, Turk, the Terminator, the Exterminator, Dick Radatz, Joe Table, that fabled hot dog chucker at Shea, Ed Glynn, Earl's favorite Stan "The Man" Unusual and all the other guys who have been put in charge of happy endings.

Some parts of what follows can be argued, but there can be no closing arguments. No. 42 is No. 1. Even if his regular-season saves total didn't exceed the combined career totals of Joe Nathan (338), who ranks second among active pitchers, and Gossage (310), Rivera would qualify as the best based on his stunning postseason resumé.

At this point though, with Mo in the ninth inning of his career, there is more area to consider, more to measure and more to say about his incomparable career. Try on this premise: Mariano Rivera has performed more effectively in his role -- specialized and limited as it has been -- than any other baseball player has performed in any role.

He's been more effective as a closer than Ozzie Smith was as a shortstop, than Rickey Henderson was as a basestealer, that Greg Maddux was as a starting pitcher or Henry Aaron was as a run producer.

It does sound a bit over the top, and the apples-and-oranges argument can be applied. How can scoreless innings pitched in relief be measured against the offensive grandeur of the Babe or the Wizardry of Ozzie or Cobb's .367? 

But measured in terms of reliability, Rivera is unlike anyone who has played the game. Whether Joe Torre or Joe Girardi summoned him from the Yankees' bullpen, the manager routinely anticipated success. "Wait and see" hasn't happened often in the Yankees' world since 1997. Neither Joe foresaw doom or gloom or even a modicum of resistance after they'd summoned Rivera.

"It never should have reached the point it has," Joe Torre said years ago, "because what he does shouldn't be taken for granted. But when he doesn't get the job done, you feel justified in being surprised."

What Torre, and then Girardi, routinely have anticipated when they've brought the world's nastiest cutter to the mound has been some level of dominance -- a broken bat or two, a strikeout here or there, a zero, a save and, most of all, a victory.

Of what other player has that sort of expectation existed? Dennis Eckersley was essentially automatic, but not for the extended period Rivera has been. Teddy Ballgame batted .406 -- and made a lot of outs -- in 1941. With Babe Ruth, the chance of a strikeout was far greater than the chance for a home run. What might Ozzie, Brooksie, Mazeroski or Andruw Jones have done with a glove that would have repeatedly secured success?

That Rivera was looming often was more than enough to prompt an opposing manager to adjust his thinking. You better score in the seventh or eighth because, with Rivera available, scoring in the ninth was out of the question.

Torre recalled an incident when he was managing in an All-Star Game in Atlanta in 2000. Darin Erstad of the Angels, hoping to avoid being removed for a pinch-hitter in the ninth inning of a one-run game with his team leading, asked Torre "Who's pitching the ninth?"

Torre said: "Mariano Rivera."

Said Erstad: "Then we have enough runs."
* * * * *
A greater compliment came from Girardi on Sunday morning before the rousing salute to Rivera at The Stadium. "He's mastered his craft as well as anyone I've ever seen," is how the manager put it.

And it can't be put any better. Girardi's point was absolute, his words left no room for debate. Just as well, there is no need for debate.

Of course, it's understood that the closer role, particularly as it has been redefined since the days when Rollie Fingers and Sparky Lyle regularly pitched in the seventh and eighth innings, comes with an enhanced chance for success. In most cases, a lead is in place before a closer is summoned. His challenge most often is to achieve three outs before the opponent can tie the score -- or worse. Merely three outs, but they routinely are the most challenging three outs of the game.

Rivera has been up to the challenge more than anyone. Baseball is said to be a game based on failure. It is -- for the guys swinging the bats. For Rivera, it's a game based on others' failures.
* * * * *
Rivera's standing in the game has been established for years. We know where he stands, but among what others does Rivera stand? Personal preferences follow: an all-time team that would have had scant need of a closer.

Catcher: Johnny Bench

First base: Lou Gehrig

Second base: Rogers Hornsby

Third base: Mike Schmidt (with a nod to Eddie Mathews)

Shortstop: Honus Wagner (with a nod to Ozzie Smith)

Left field: Joe DiMaggio

Center field: Willie Mays

Right field: Babe Ruth (with a nod to Henry Aaron)

Designated hitter: Ted Williams

Bench: Ty Cobb, Mickey Mantle, Rickey Henderson, Stan Musial, Roberto Clemente

Starters: Walter Johnson, Warren Spahn, Sandy Koufax, Bob Gibson, Tom Seaver, Lefty Grove, Randy Johnson, Greg Maddux, Bob Feller, Christy Mathewson, Carl Hubbell

Reliever: Mariano Rivera"



On Rivera's day


9/22/13, Rivera and his wife Clara enter Yankee dugout after ceremony, final 2-1 SF Giants, 1.2IP by Rivera, getty

9/22/13, Rivera enters from the bullpen during his ceremony, final 2-1 SF Giants, 1.2 IP by Rivera, reuters

9/22/13, Yankee dugout in the 8th, Pettitte having just joined them from the field, final 2-1 SF Giants, 1.2 IP by Rivera, getty

9/22/13, Rivera sits in rocking chair of baseball bats presented by Jeter and Girardi. Rivera's 3 sons are at left, Jackie Robinson's widow, Rachel, and his daughter, Sharon, are at right. photo, the great Barton Silverman, NY Times. "A final bow for Rivera," NYT

9/22/13, Above, Rivera speaks at his ceremony, Reuters

9/22/13, Pettitte waves to fans who demanded curtain call, Reuters

9/22/13, Jeter hugs Andy Pettitte after he comes off the field in the 8th, getty

9/22/13, Andy Pettitte waves to fans in the 8th who demanded a curtain call, final 2-1 SF Giants, getty

9/22/13, Fans wearing #42 shirts wait to enter Yankee Stadium, final 2-1 SF Giants, 1.2IP by Rivera, reuters


9/22/13, "Metallica performs at Yankee Stadium to honor Mariano Rivera," Exit Sandman," USA Today, by Nick Schwartz


Rivera and Andy running, date unknown, via ESPN 9/22/13, "First Pitch: The end of an era?," Munson, Star Ledger, USA Today Sports

9/22/13, Jeter, Mo, Matsui, Cano, after Rivera speech at his retirement ceremony at the Stadium, reuters


There will never be another Rivera-Mike Lupica

9/19/13, "Baseball stars come and go, but there will never be another closer like Mariano Rivera," Mike Lupica, NY Daily News

"When it comes to the Yankees closer, there is no debate: Rivera has been better at what he does than any other ballplayer who ever lived. If there is a sure thing in sports, Rivera at the end of the ninth inning is it."

"So finally it comes to this for Mariano Rivera, to a different kind of ninth inning whenever the last one comes. The bullpen door will open for the last time, and it will be the same as the door closing for good on the greatest Yankee pitcher of them all, the greatest relief pitcher who ever lived. There will never be anything like this for as long as baseball is played. This kind of excellence and grace, for this long. This kind of history in the capital of baseball history. Rivera has been the ninth inning for the Yankees the way Ruth was home runs.

As you close the book on him, you start there.

He is grace the way Joe DiMaggio was grace at Yankee Stadium, until DiMaggio broke down in a way Rivera never has. He is cool the way Clyde Frazier was cool with a basketball in his hands at the Garden. He is the sheer brilliance of the young Mantle, the difference between him and Mantle, the Mantle before his legs gave out underneath him, is that somehow Mo never got old.

He was first great for the Yankees in 1996. He is still great in the late summer of 2013, whether he makes it to another October or not. We can debate Ruth and Aaron, and whether or not Willie Mays was the best all-around player, debate whether or not Sandy Koufax in his prime was the best pitcher anybody ever saw, and if you ever saw a better leadoff hitter than Rickey Henderson in your life.

Those are always the conversations that drive sports, and carry us all.

But about this there is no debate or conversation: Mariano Rivera has been better at what he does than any ballplayer who ever lived. It is there in memory and in the books, all the saves, all the ninth innings, all the broken bats, all the big games he slam-dunked for the Yankees at the end the way Dr. J could dunk a basketball.

“No one ever dreams a life like this,” he said to me once in front of his locker.

You remember all of it now as he moves up on the end of his remarkable career. You remember all the triumphs, of course. And because of the triumphs, you have to remember the failures....

But if you ask me for one night to remember above and beyond all the others, it was the October before that (2003), another Red Sox-Yankee October, a rousing Game 7 out of the past for the old Yankee Stadium. The Red Sox were going to win the pennant that night until Grady Little left Pedro Martinez in the game too long.

The Yankees came back to tie. Rivera came in to pitch the top of the ninth that night, Joe Torre betting that the Yankees could find bottom-of-the-ninth magic, just because those were still the days for Torre’s Yankees when we thought the other team getting through the bottom of the ninth at Yankee Stadium was like making it through the toughest baseball neighborhood in this world.

But they played on.

So Mo pitched the 10th.

Still they played on.

So there was Rivera, still out there, not just the ninth inning now, but the 10th, and then the 11th. You know what happened after that, know that Aaron Boone took Tim Wakefield into the leftfield seats, one of the most famous postseason home runs in Yankee history, and the Yankees had won another pennant.

On the night when Rivera was willing to pitch all night.

I was talking to him about that once, and wondered what Torre would have done if the game had stayed tied, if it had gone to the 12th, who would have pitched next.

“I would have pitched next,” Rivera said. “I was going out for the 12th.”

The one-inning man for so much of his storied career as a closer. The three-out man. Willing to get 12 outs through the 12th that night if that was what had been needed for the Yankees to win another pennant.

Talk about all the other stars we have ever had in New York sports. Talk about LT coming from the outside, and Simms in that Super Bowl in Pasadena. Talk Seaver and about Eli against the Patriots, and Clyde and Capt. Willis Reed. And Jeter, you never leave Capt. Jeter out of a conversation like this. Talk about Messier in the spring of 1994.

But then close your eyes and think about as close to a sure thing as we have ever had in sports or will ever have. See the door in the outfield opening and hear the music. See Rivera running toward another ninth inning. Red Smith, in his last column, wrote that someday there would be another Joe DiMaggio. Never another Rivera."

Rivera in the bullpen at old Yankee Stadium, NY Daily News, antonelli

2003 ALCS game 7, Rivera pitches 3 shut out innings with game tied, was winning pitcher and ALCS MVP




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