Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Two Days Later Mariano's Day Still Fantastic

It was a long day in the Bronx Sunday afternoon. It was very hot if you were on the third base side, cool if you were seated in the shade along first day, but a gorgeous day all in all. It was a very perfect day to honor the one and only Mariano Rivera.

The game itself, a 2-1 loss to the San Francisco Giants, could not diminish the remarkable ceremony prior to the game nor the emotion and love expressed by the fans towards Mariano and the humility and grace displayed by #42.

With Mariano being the last active player to wear #42, the day began with the Yankees closer, his wife Clara and sons Mariano Jr., Jafet, and Jaziel, joined in Monument Park by the Steinbrenner extended family and Randy Levine to present Jackie Robinson's widow Rachel and their daughter Sharon, with a special plaque commemorating the late, great Jackie Robinson. A circle with the #42 inside in Dodgers blue and white was also set aside from the other numbers inside of Monument Park.

Then it was time for the unveiling of Mariano's #42 in the row alongside all of the Yankees retired numbers, right next to Ron Guidry's #49. Mariano was blown away by the fan's response throughout the day and it began with the announcement that his number was retired while he was still an active player.

Emcees John Sterling and Michael Kay then introduced a number of Yankees luminaries. The man who was the Yankees savior, who kept the prospects and avoided the poor trades during George Steinbrenner's second suspension, Gene Michael, was the first to come out. There was Mo's manager from 1996 - 2008, Joe Torre. Former teammates Jorge Posada, David Cone, John Wetteland, Jeff Nelson, Tino Martinez, Paul O'Neill, Bernie Williams (who received the largest ovation and should have a day of his own already), and Hideki Matsui (what a great surprise that was), and former trainer Gene Monahan. They were re-joined by the Steinbrenner family and front office members, and the Robinsons.

When it was time for Mo to make his way in from the bullpen to a live version of Metallica's "Enter Sandman". James Hetfield, Lars Ulrich, Kirk Hammett, and Robert Trujillo rocked from a stage in front of Monument Park. Mo didn't take his usual run in from the pen, that would take place in the 8th inning of the game, but a casual walk that enabled him to soak up the moment and all of the cheers. It also was one of the many moments that Mariano raised his arms in overwhelmed thanks and disbelief. The current Yankees team then joined him when he reached the infield.

Next came the gifts, and there were many.

Four former Yankees that are now part of the visiting San Francisco Giants coaching staff were first. Pitching coach Dave Righetti, the Yankees saves leader until Mo came along, hitting coach Hensley "Bam Bam" Meulens, first base coach Roberto Kelly, and assistant hitting coach Joe Lefebvre. They presented Mariano with a guitar that Hammett helped design, emblazoned with the number 42 on it and signed by Hall of Famer Willie Mays.

There was also a watercolor painting of Mariano's June, 2007 appearance against the Giants in their AT&;T Park.
Metallica presented an autographed speaker that had #42 on it.

The New York Yankees Foundation presented Mariano with a $100,000 check for his foundation and Hal Steinbrenner gave his closer a beautiful Waterford crystal version of his glove. Of course, he also received a #42 jersey encased in glass.

Long time teammate Derek Jeter and his current manager/former teammate Joe Girardi brought out a rocking chair made from baseball bats, complete with leather seat. The honoree immediately tried it out and laughed.

Then it was time for the speech. Surrounded by everyone near the pitcher's mound, Mariano first expressed his faith in thanking God for the opportunity he was given in life and for the very special day that was taking place.

He thanked his wife Clara for her love, kindness, and patience. He thanked his sons Mariano Jr., Jafet, and Jaziel, who giggled when his Dad said, "thanks for your support man."

He thanked his native country of Panama and spoke for a few minutes in Spanish.

He thanked his parents for having him, his former and current teammates, the fans, the organization, and George Steinbrenner, of whom he said he loved and missed.

He thanked the Robinson family and said how grateful and honored he was to be the last Major Leaguer to wear 42.

He wrapped it up by saying "..so let's play ball guys, we gotta go. I love you guys!"

Throughout the day there video tributes on the Yankee Stadium scoreboard, ranging from Vin Scully to Magic Johnson to Jason Kidd to Mel Stottelmyre

It was an emotional ceremony, followed by an emotional game. Andy Pettitte, who had announced his retirement just a few days earlier, pitched marvelously. He was perfect for 4.2 innings until he walked Pablo Sandoval and had a no-hitter for 5.1 innings until Ehire Adrianza homered to left to tie the game at 1-1. (Mark Reynolds had hit one out for the Yankees in the 3rd inning.

Pettitte hadn't gone very far in games this season, but after 101 pitches and seven full innings, Girardi sent him out to start the 8th inning. Sandoval reached on a double that caused Pettitte, always his own biggest critic, to slam his glove on his thigh. When Girardi came out to pull him in favor of David Robertson the crowd erupted in applause and chants of "An-dy Pett-ite". Pettitte tipped his capped before he ducked into the dugout, but then came back on the field and acknowledged the love the fans were showering down upon him.

Unfortunately, Robertson gave up an RBI single to Tony Abreu that broke the tie and saddled Pettitte with a loss in his final home game. Robertson than departed and again the Stadium roared as #42 jogged in from the bullpen to the sounds of "Enter Sandman" for the last time on a Yankee Stadium Sunday afternoon.

He broke a couple of bats before it was over and got an inning ending double play to shut down a Giants threat in the 9th, but it wasn't enough as the Yankees lineup couldn't get push a run across the board.

99% of the fans stayed in their seats until the end, and though disappointed and frustrated by the score, went home with smiles on their faces and a great memory in their hearts and heads.
I know this fan did.

Mariano's speech
#42 Retired
 Mariano reflects on the day
 Joe Torre, Jorge Posada, and Bernie Williamd Discuss Mariano's Career

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