On Sunday, September 22nd, 2013, Mariano Rivera's legendary career was celebrated at Yankee Stadium. He was given gifts. His number 42, the last number 42 to be worn, was officially retired. He was greeted by teammates of old and congratulated by his current teammates, his family, and pretty much everyone at the stadium watching. Despite all of the spectacle of the event, it never really got to me. It was a celebration to be remembered, but it never got to me.
Last night got to me. Oh man, did last night get to me.
During the offseason, the debate whether Joe Girardi should return as the New York Yankees manager will grace the papers, blogs, and twitter with points and counterpoints. None of that mattered last night, as Girardi did something I will never forget. It was a moment that was even more touching than the celebration on Sunday. After receiving permission from home-plate umpire Laz Diaz and crew chief Mike Winters, Girardi sent Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter to make the pitching change and get Mo.
And it got to me.
Watching Pettitte hug Rivera just brought everything to a perfect close. It was the culmination of almost two decades of sheer excellence. The regular season success. The post season success. The cutter of eternity. The man is a legend and will be remembered as such. Even with all of that, it wasn't just the excellence though. What it really brought to my attention is the one thing that really sets Mo apart from just about everyone else; his modesty about the whole thing.
I am not a modest person. I'd love to say with a straight face that if I had the kind of career that Rivera did, I'd be as modest as him about it. I cannot, because I'm egotistical. Mo is not. Mo is modest. Mo is special. There was never any huge celebration on the mound when he saved a game. No invisible arrows, no chest beating, no fist pumps. He just simply walked to the catcher and shook his hand. A simple "job well done" handshake, if you will.
He didn't even pick Metallica's Enter Sandman as his entrance music. It was given to him by the Yankees brass, to give him something similar to Trevor Hoffman's Hells Bells entrance music. The spectacle was created around Rivera. All Mo brought to the party was the cutter, the handshake, and the humility. Even when Rivera surpassed Hoffman with his 602nd save, he had to be pushed back onto the mound for the celebration and admiration of the fanbase who loved him so much.
It was all right there last night, encapsulated on the mound with Mariano Rivera hugging Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter before exiting the field for the last time. He broke down and began crying into their shoulders as his career in pinstripes had finally come to a close. I, as well as many Yankees fans watching, broke down with him. Not only were we watching the greatest reliever ever come out of the game, we were watching quite possibly the most humble baseball player of this or any generation walk into the dugout.
You can look up the word "modesty" in the dictionary right now, and it is a flawless description of Mariano Rivera. That moment between Pettitte, Jeter, and Rivera is what I will take away from this year more than anything. If I could end the season right now, I would. The YES postgame talked of Girardi not using Mo in relief for the entire series against the Astros. I couldn't agree with them more. If Joe wants to put in him center field for an inning in Houston, that's fine. Last night should be his final time on the mound as a relief pitcher for the Yankees. It was perfect. Let it end right there.
A DVD will undoubtably be out soon in celebration of Rivera's career and his legacy. I will be buying the Blu-Ray. Every time I watch it, when I get to the part when Mo hugs Pettitte, the modesty on display throughout his entire career will all coming rushing back. The emotions that I experienced last night will all come rushing back.
For you cannot spell the words modesty or emotion without Mo.
More from Pinstriped Bible:
- Pinstripe Alley Podcast Episode 25: We'll miss you, Mo
- Yankees 0, Rays 4: Mo leaves the Bronx on a sad note
- Mariano Rivera retirement videos: Exit Sandman ceremony and tributes
- Yankees Free Agent Targets: Jose Abreu to showcase at Yankees Dominican complex, Raicel Iglesias defects
- 2013 Yankees infield: a terrible revolving door