Although Yankee Stadium was packed on Sunday, surely, by now, even the most devoted Yankees’ fan has nearly had his or her fill of Mariano Rivera’s retirement tour. Rivera might have had enough of it himself, as he considers just how he’s supposed to store the dozens of gifts with which other teams have presented him over the course of his 19th and final season. You are undoubtedly well aware of the many impressive bullet points on the all-time saves leader’s resume – though we would nonetheless recommend Cliff Corcoran’s terrific Strike Zone post from the other day, 42 Things You Need to Know About Mariano Rivera.
The Yankees hosted their own official tribute to their great closer on Sunday afternoon, the official goodbye to Rivera even though the Yankees play the Rays at home this week. Yankees announcers John Sterling and Michael Kaye played M.C.’s. Rivera’s number, 42, was painted next to the first and third base lines.
First Sterling read statements from U.S. congressman Jose Serrano and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the latter of whom proclaimed Sunday “Mariano Rivera Day” in the city of New York. Next, in Monument Park, a new plaque honoring Jackie Robinson was revealed, as was another plaque commemorating the now permanently retired number that Rivera will be the last player to share with Robinson. Robinson’s wife and daughter, Rachel and Sharon, were there, along with the Steinbrenner family and Rivera’s family. The fans cheered. Rivera smiled.
Then Sterling and Kaye welcomed and outlined the curricula vitae of various people who were important to Mariano’s career: former Yankees G.M. Gene Michael, then Jeff Nelson, then David Cone, then John Wetteland, then Hideki Matsui, then Tino Martinez, then Paul O’Neill, then Bernie Williams, then Jorge Posada, then former trainer Gene Monahan, then Joe Torre, then Rachel and Sharon Robinson, then Rivera’s family.
Rivera's video tribute was an extensive profile of his career, and it ended with the voice of Bob Sheppard, the longtime Yankees’ P.A. announcer who died in 2010, announcing a Rivera appearance in his typical way was a nice touch.
Then Metallica performed "Enter Sandman," Rivera’s theme song even though he always says he prefers Christian music, on the field. They were wearing pinstriped jerseys that read Metallica on the chest, except for Lars Ulrich, who wore a black tanktop.
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Mariano walked in from the bullpen. Posada, Williams O’Neill and Martinez recorded his journey on their iPhones, as if it wouldn’t be on TV. Williams was the only one to use landscape mode. He is, after all, artsy.
Then we were told that the Yankees value their relationship with Steiner Collectibles.
Then it was time for more presents for Rivera. The four Yankees who happen to be on the Giants’ coaching staff, including hitting coach Hensley Muelens and pitching coach Dave Righetti, gave him two gifts. The first was a 16 x 20 pen and ink watercolor, leading some to wonder what exactly constitutes a pen and ink watercolor, commemorating an appearance in 2007 at AT&T Park. The second was an electric guitar designed by the Giants and Metallica.
The Yankees gave $100,000 to the Mariano Rivera Foundation and presented him a rocking chair made of baseball bats. Didn’t he already receive a rocking chair made of baseball bats earlier this year? He did, from the Twins, in July. Rivera’s Christmas list this year will likely not include a rocking chair made of baseball bats.
Then the Steinbrenners gave him a replica of his the plaque honoring his retired number – “A beautiful piece,” Sterling called it – and a replica of his glove made of Waterford crystal. “Mariano Rivera, the greatest closer in baseball history,” it read, in part.
Then, finally, it was time for Rivera to speak. His current teammates walked out and gathered behind him on the infield.
Mariano thanked God, first, and then his wife, Clara, and his family. He thanked his dad and mom for having him. “You made a good one,” he said. He thanked his teammates, past and present. He thanked the fans.
“Has been great run, guys,” he said. He thanked the San Francisco organization for “being here and allowing me to compete against you guys,” though the league’s schedule maker probably had something to do with that. Then he thanked God for creating the Yankees, and said he wished George Steinbrenner was here. Then he told Rachel Robinson he would have loved to have met Jackie, and said it was an honor to be the last player to wear No. 42. Then he thanked America. “Let’s play ball, man, we gotta go,” he said at 1:40 PM.