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."


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