Top of the 8th. One out. Yankees down 4-0. Mathematically eliminated from the Post Season. This is not a Mariano Rivera situation, but for one night, for one magical & historical night, it was. He came jogging in like he has done thousands of times from center field, Metallica playing over the speakers, cameras flashing accompanied by a deafening roar from the almost 50,000 in attendance. But this time was different, this time was his last in the Bronx.
Rich did a great article already talking about Mo’s final moments in the city he has called home for 19 seasons, but I needed to get my thoughts out. There is too much emotion to keep to myself.
For almost 2 decades, Jeter, Rivera, Pettitte (and Posada) defined the New York Yankees. They won the organization five World Series titles in their time together. They helped boost a Yankees team that was on the downturn in the early 90’s and they never looked back. Mariano has given so much to the city of New York and the game of baseball in general. He was the last remaining 42 after the league retired it in honor of Jackie Robinson, and he wore it with pride, humility and respect. He always would thank Jackie and his widow for letting him wear the number. A man that has achieved a success that is unparalleled in the game of baseball. He sits on a mountain of records and looks down on no man. He isn’t better than you, he doesn’t rub it in your face or gloat. HE thanks YOU for letting him do what he does best. In the media room after the game he thanked the reporters for all the years of support and memories, he ended his press conference with, “I love you guys.”
19 years. There are entire generations of Yankees fans that do not know Yankees baseball without Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera, me being one of them. The Yankees are entering an entirely new era. An era without the Core Four, something they haven’t had to contemplate for almost 2 decades. Sure Jeter is still in pinstripes, but he is almost 40 and has shown signs of aging as of late. It just will not be the same, and that is putting it lightly.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the house when Jeter and Pettitte came to get Mo off the mound for the last time. It was a feeling nobody can describe; sadness, happiness, gratefulness all rolled into one. Yes he is leaving, no we will never see another human being or player like him, but my God look at what he has given us for all of these years. We are truly blessed to have gotten to see such a legend, such an incredible man play this game for so long. It felt as if we were watching Babe Ruth take his last swing, or Lou Gehrig talking at the microphone about his retirement. That image of Jeter and Pettitte hugging Mo at the mound will live in baseball lore forever. A defining picture for generations of baseball fans. Just replaying it in my head is bringing tears to my eyes as I write. It’s as if we all have lost a brother, or a father. He has been there for us for so long without fault. In the Bronx, NY the end of a baseball game is marked by number 42 trotting out the the mound, but no more.
19 years. 1,115 games played. 1,283 innings pitched. 652 saves. 1,173 strikeouts. 5 championships, 13 time All Star. How do you thank a man that has given so much and asked for so little in return. Just saying “thank you” to Mo doesn’t feel like enough. Having him receive wacky and amazing gifts from different organizations in baseball doesn’t feel like enough. How do you thank a man that has given us so many memories, so many defining moments in pinstripes that many of us will carry with us till the day we die? 2014 is the start of a new era in baseball. An era without the greatest relief pitcher and overall greatest human beings to pick up a baseball.
Mo on Jeter and Pettitte coming to take him out of the game, “I was so thankful they came out. I needed them there, and they were there for me.” We needed Mo, and we are some of the luckiest fans in the world to be able to say we got to watch Mariano Rivera pitch. He is a legend. He is unique. “He will be one tough act to follow”