Fans Say Goodbye to the Last Sports Hero
By Howard Goldin
BRONX, NEW YORK, SEPTEMBER 27- The tears in Mariano Rivera's eyes said it all- an era was coming to an end. The greatest closer of all time, known for his cool, professional way of getting the job done, finally broke down as his time at Yankee Stadium came to an end.
Although the game against the Tampa Bay Rays was meaningless for the Yankees, as they were eliminated from post-season play one day earlier, the emotions of everyone in the park were stirred by the entrance of Mariano Rivera with one out in the eighth. He received a prolonged and deserved standing ovation before he threw his first pitch. He retired both batters he faced to end the inning.
To the delight of the capacity crowd, he returned to the mound for the ninth inning. After retiring the first two batters, his long-time teammates and friends, Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte, walked to the mound to escort him from the game.
Rivera, overcome with emotion, hugged Pettitte and broke down into sobs.
After the game, Rivera exclaimed, “The emotions bombarded me. The fans, the opposing team, everyone on their feet. It has no price.”
Pettitte called it, “A moment I’ll never forget.”
The Rays had left the dugout and all were on their feet applauding as were the police officers on the field and the fans in the stands. Many, in addition to Rivera, were in tears.
After the last out of the inning was made, Andy Pettitte’s name was chanted by the fans. The Rays remained in their dugout and urged the retiring left-hander to come on the field. Another standing ovation was given and responded to by Pettitte before the game could continue.
The loss was far less important to the fans than their opportunity to bid a loving farewell to two great Yankees.
Jeter is now the lone member of the famous Core Four, but with Mo’s retirement it feels that the era is gone now. Rivera’s humbleness and sense of team seems quaint by today’s standards. The last great sports hero who gave his best for the team and not for the dollar or for his own self-importance. A man of class leaving a world of overhyped, over paid superstars.
As proof one need not look any further than the fans. They stayed long after the final out. They stayed as Mo sat in the dugout trying to take it all in one last time. And they cheered one last time as the greatest and possibly the one last true sports hero and role model tipped his cap one last time and exited Yankee Stadium.