This Day In Sports: For the best closer, it comes to a close

September 26, 2013, 10 years ago today: The greatest closer in baseball history pitches his final game. Mariano Rivera’s farewell appearance came at home in Yankee Stadium, wrapping up a 19-year career in pinstripes. This was not a Yankees championship team—they had been eliminated from Wild Card contention the previous night by the Tampa Bay Rays. Nevertheless, more than 48,000 fans turned out to watch the future Hall of Famer’s farewell. Little did they, or Rivera, know how the night would go.

Manager Joe Girardi brought in Rivera during the eighth inning to a thunderous roar. He retired two batters in the eighth—and then two in the ninth. That’s when Girardi sent out Andy Pettite and Derek Jeter, teammates of Rivera from the beginning, to take him out of the game with two outs in the ninth, and the emotion flowed. Rivera broke into tears as he was hugged by Pettite; then he walked slowly to the dugout, turning 360 degrees to tip his cap to the crowd. Raised in the Panamanian fishing village of Puerto Caimito, Rivera ended up as the biggest fish in the Big Apple on one September evening.

Rivera had experienced a surreal moment at the All-Star Game that July—at the Mets’ Citi Field, no less. He took the mound for the American League in the eighth inning and suddenly found himself standing on the field by himself, taking in the cheering from the 45,000 fans in attendance as well as the players lining the top step of both dugouts. But that didn’t compare to the final bow in the Bronx. “That moment was the icing on the cake,” Rivera said. “That moment was the moment in my career as a baseball player. Having my two brothers standing with me on the mound and closing my career, that was special. That was special. Even if I couldn’t write it, it could never be that good, the way it happened.”

Rivera, a five-time World Series champion and Major League Baseball’s all-time saves leader with 652, was last player in the big leagues to don No. 42. Players already wearing it had been grandfathered in after the majors retired Jackie Robinson’s number throughout pro baseball in 1997, and Rivera lasted 17 more seasons. He was inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2019—the only player ever to be elected unanimously by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

(Tom Scott hosts the Scott Slant segment during the football season on KTVB’s Sunday Sports Extra. He also anchors four sports segments each weekday on 95.3 FM KTIK and one on News/Talk KBOI. His Scott Slant column runs every Wednesday.)

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *