Originally posted on Bronx Pinstripes  |  Last updated 9/23/13
Courtesy of mlb.com “Way to go, old man.” Andy Pettitte greeted Mariano Rivera with those words as the all-time saves leader returned to the dugout after the eighth inning yesterday. Pettitte  started the frame and gave up a leadoff double to Pablo Sandoval, which prompted Joe Girardi to call on David Robertson. Pettitte  jogged off the mound for what was  likely his final time at Yankee Stadium. He stopped just short of the dugout and tipped his cap to the fans who were giving him a standing ovation. He stopped at the top of the dugout and hugged the captain, Derek Jeter in a long emotional embrace. After hugging the rest of his teammates, Pettitte was pushed back up the steps for a curtain call. He tipped his cap again, and stared around with a somber look, taking it all in. The fans were saying goodbye. They were saying thanks. Robertson allowed Pettitte’s run to score, which pushed the deficit to 2-1. Rivera was called on to clean up the mess, and he did – pitching 1.2 innings, keeping his team in the game. He was ready to pitch the tenth, but it never came. The Yankees had their chance to score in the eighth, but couldn’t push across a run. They ended up losing a must-win game, and now stare at a four game deficit with six to play. Maybe a few years ago the Yankees win this game. Maybe Derek Jeter gets the big hit to give the team the lead. Maybe Rivera saves the win for Pettitte, like we’ve seen countless times before. It didn’t happen. It was a stark reminder that this era of Yankee baseball was coming to an end. Still, yesterday was perfect. Sitting in section 420b, row 13 seat 3 I had goosebumps and chills throughout the entire day. Tears began to well up during Mo’s ceremony and Pettitte’s exit. The collective admiration for two men was unbelievable to see. You knew they were loved, but to see a stadium of almost 50,000 people chanting their names was very emotional. The ovations were deafening, and the whole day will stick with me for a long time. I felt honored to have seen the sendoffs of two great teammates, and more importantly – two great men. Never again will we see two players like this. It just won’t happen. The main attraction was Mo. Watching the ceremony for Rivera was surreal, for this guy has been almost immortal but now it was finally becoming a reality that he’s  old – the swan song had begun; we were actually saying goodbye. His number 42 was now next to Don Mattingly and Ron Guidry on the row of retired numbers. Seeing Rivera’s reaction to the over one-minute standing ovation he received while standing out in monument park on the video-board put a strange smile on my face. You could tell he was overwhelmed by it and that made me happy. After growing up watching this man pitch, I felt like I knew him personally. I was legitimately happy for him because he deserved it. It felt as if each fan in the stadium had a unique, personal connection with Rivera. He’s saved so many big games, we each have a unique memory of where we were when they happened, who we were with and how he made us feel. The Yankees trotted out the old dynasty – players who hold a special place in the hearts of Yankees fans. Joe Torre, Hideki Matsui, Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, Tino Martinez, Paul O’Neill, Jeff Nelson, Gene Michael, David Cone, John Wetteland and Gene Monahan all came out to the field. With each name announced, the ovations grew louder as the fans recalled the glory days. The former Yankees waited as Rivera walked slowly in from the bullpen while Metallica themselves played Enter Sandman on a stage in centerfield. It was almost as if his old teammates, the keys to four World Championships over a five year span, were waiting for him one last time. Rivera walked in, soaking in the cheers. He received gifts from the Giants and Yankees, and then came on the microphone to thank his family, the Yankees organization and the fans. When the speech ended, everyone in the ballpark stood up and chanted at once “MARI-ANO! MARI-ANO!” Pettitte summed up Rivera’s day and career perfectly yesterday. It could also be said about Pettitte himself. Way to go, old man.
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