For the Yankees, it was a nothing game. It was waiting to see Mariano Rivera who came in the game in the 8th inning, the Yanks trailing 4-0. But what we’ll remember came in the 9th. Mo had retired all four batters that he’d faced and here was Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter walking to the mound in place of Joe Girardi. Big smiles. Pettitte signaled for a relief pitcher. When Rivera saw them coming he smiled too. Jeter said, “Time to go.”
Mo gave the ball to Pettitte, hugged him and that’s when he began to sob.
Jeter stood there grinning as if he was uncomfortable by the emotion.
For all of the manufactured sentiment this was the real thing. The next twenty minutes was Mo’s long goodbye. Walking off the field to an ovation, hugging his teammates, saluting the Rays, who clapped for him along with everyone else in the building. When the game was over, Mo stayed in the dugout. He wasn’t alone because there were what looked to be a few dozen photographers feet away taking his picture. They were just doing their jobs, of course, but I couldn’t help but think they were missing the point. A close-up shot wasn’t the image there–a long shot of Rivera by himself in the dugout, that was the picture. A man alone in public, saying goodbye, privately but in front of everyone too. The photographers cleared a path when Mo walked to the mound for a final time, stood on the rubber, poked his foot into the earth and then bent down and took a handful of dirt before walking off and doing a final interview.
Bless him, Michael Kay tried to sound stately on the YES broadcast. And if he doesn’t have the chops to pull that off he deserves credit for being a minimalist for once.
It was a melancholy scene. The air was cool, October coming, but for just the second time in 19 years, there will be no playoffs in the Bronx. That’s Mo’s time. He has to settle for an outpouring of affection, genuine or processed, that few players ever enjoy. It is enough. He was, and is, our man and it’s hard to image that we’ll miss another player more.
[Photo Credit: Howard Simmons/ N.Y. Daily News; William Perlman/THE STAR-LEDGER via USA TODAY Sports; Elsa/Getty Images North America; Craig Robinson]