Finally, after delivering so many perfect moments from the pitcher’s mound at Yankee Stadium, Mariano Rivera was given one.
When it came time to remove Rivera in the ninth inning of the final home game of his storied career Thursday night, it wasn’t Manager Joe Girardi who emerged to give him the hook. It was two other members of the team’s Core Four, Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter, who came out for a curtain call and a farewell that need no words.
“I was bombarded with emotions and feelings that I couldn’t describe,” Rivera said. “Everything hit at that time. I knew that that was the last time, period. I never felt something like that before.”
Rivera wept, his face buried on Pettite’s shoulder, as the crowd chanted his name.
“I didn’t expect for him to be quite so emotional,” Pettitte said. “He broke down and just gave me a bear hug, and I just bear-hugged him back. He was really crying. He was weeping. I could feel him crying on me.”
He walked off to cheers and sat briefly, alone, in the dugout. He came out for a curtain call and, after the game, helped himself to a little souvenir from his office, walking off with a fistful of dirt from the mound.
“We’ve been through everything together,” Jeter said. “I’m just happy he was able to go out like this. What the fans did for him this whole home stand was awesome. I’m grateful I’ve been his teammate for parts of 21 years.”