Bronx, NY---The final game of the 2013 season at Yankee Stadium drew a capacity crowd of 48,675. Until Mariano Rivera entered the contest with one out in the top of the eighth and the score 4-0 in favor of Tampa, the game was another of the many disappointments Yankee fans were subjected to throughout the season.
Everyone in the park was moved by the events of the remaining minutes of the evening. The announcement was made by the voice of the legendary, late Public Address Announcer Bob Shepard. The fans arose from their seats to give the closer a prolonged and heart-felt standing ovation as he walked onto the field.
Rivera lived up to expectations by retiring both batters he faced to end the inning. The emotion of his final game at Yankee Stadium affected the hurler and he had to retreat to the clubhouse to compose himself.
Rivera spoke about his feelings in a post-game press conference, “I never felt like that before [on the mound]. It was amazing. I had to regain my composure [between innings]. I was able to compose myself and come back out.”
He was composed sufficiently to retire the first two batters in the ninth. Suddenly, two of the Core Four, Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter, emerged from the dugout to remove Rivera from the game.
Rivera, overcome with emotion, hugged Pettitte tightly and broke out in tears. He then hugged Jeter. During this interval, everyone in the park was on their feet and cheering, the fans, the field personnel of the Rays and Yankees, who were standing on the field and even the police assigned to field duty.
Mariano described his feelings at that point, “The emotions bombarded me; the fans, the opposing team, everyone on their feet. It has no price. I appreciate it.”
Pettitte, one of the principals, spoke of Rivera’s emotions, “It was a moment I’ll never forget. He [Rivera] just broke down and gave me a bear hug. He was really weeping. There was so much emotion going through him.”
Before the Yankees came to bat in the ninth, the crowd began chanting Pettitte’s name. The Rays remained in their dugout and both teams urged Pettitte to leave the dugout and respond to the fans. They players on both teams again joined in the cheers. After the game, the lefty revealed how he felt, “Sunday, that was closure to me. Tonight was just a bonus for me.”
After the game concluded, Rivera left the dugout and walked to the mound. He toed the rubber and leaned down to gather dirt from the mound in his hands. The veteran reliever explained why he went to the mound after the game ended “I wanted to get some dirt and stay out there once more. The little time was special, me out there alone. I won’t be competing out there again. I knew it was the last time.”
In a post-game press conference, Yankee skipper Joe Girardi was moved to tears while speaking of Rivera, “He made my job fun. He made my job easier, but more importantly, he made us better.”
Rivera exhibited his ingrained graciousness and humility when speaking to reporters after the game. He apologized for not mentioning the media in his remarks on Sunday, “I thank you guys. I love you.” He and his wife and sons left the press conference room to the applause from reporters.”
Everyone who attended the games at Yankee Stadium on Sunday and/or Thursday will never forgot what they experienced.