I really looked forward to a special weekend which consisted of my 51st high school reunion at Hackensack High School on Saturday, Sept 21, followed on Sunday by Mariano Rivera Day and the New York Football Giant game. The reunion was fabulous as I turned the clock back to 1962.
Driving home from the reunion Saturday evening through a torrential rain storm, I really looked forward to Sunday’s special events. One problem was the Yankees’ ceremony started the same time as the Giant game. Since I am both a fanatic Yankee and Giant fan, I went back and forth between the two stations. The Giants took care of that problem by embarrassing themselves. Putting the remote down, I stayed glued to the Yankees.
After seeing the gifts given by the other teams to Mariano, what would the Yankees give Mariano? The gifts included a rocking chair made of bats and a crystal glove. That’s fine, but the other things in the ceremony impressed me much more. One can say the Yankees know how to throw a party. In Monument Park his “42” was formally retired with Jackie Robinson’s wife and daughter looking on. This was a surprise because it was the first time in Yankee history that a current player had his number retired. Mariano then emerged from the bullpen and walked to the pitcher’s mound as Metallica performed “Enter Sandman.” Many of his former teammates then came out of the dugout to congratulate him. Mariano proceeded to thank everyone including teammates, George Steinbrenner, the Yankee organization, and the fans. One comical point was his thank you to his parents for creating such a wonderful person.
What I was looking at was not just the retirement of a legend but the end of another successful Yankee era. The game that followed the ceremony was a microcosm of the Yankee 2013 season. It seemed like a playoff game. It was fitting that the opponent was the San Francisco Giants, formerly the New York Giants, the old rival of the Yankees before they moved in 1957. The Yankee pitcher for the game was Andy Pettitte, who announced his second retirement a few days earlier. Would Andy and Mariano save the Yankee season? Andy was pitching as if he was in his 20s and allowed no hits going into the sixth inning leading 1 to 0. Wouldn’t it be something for Andy, at the age of 41, to pitch a no-hitter in his last start at Yankee Stadium? The dream ended when Andy hung a slider to Ehire Adranza, who deposited his first ML home run into the left-field stands. Andy exited the game in the eighth inning after giving up a double with the score tied at 1. Robertson yielded a go ahead single and Mariano relieved him with one out and the Yankees trailing 2 to 1. Mariano got the final two outs. The bottom of the inning set the stage for a story-book ending. Cano doubled and the Yankees had runners on second and third with no outs. I am sure that the fans were thinking like I was: Wouldn’t it be great for Mariano to get either a save or win on his day! It was not to be. Almonte, the pitch runner on third, made a bonehead running error and was thrown out at home plate. This left runners on first and second. Nunez, with two outs, singled to left but Cano was thrown out at home plate ending the inning. Mariano pitched a scoreless top of the ninth. When Overbay led off the bottom of the ninth by striking out, the small hope of reaching the playoffs depended on Brendan Ryan (a 190 hitter) and J.R. Murphy (a rookie with 12 ML at-bats). Clearly, I could hear the fat-lady singing; it was over. As mentioned in a previous blog, I believe the successful era of 17 playoff appearances including five World Series championships in the past 18 years just ended.
For all of us Yankee fans that love our National Pastime, I wish to thank Mariano for always doing it the right way and for his humility.