The numbers are staggering: 1,113 appearances, 1,172 strikeouts, 652 saves, a lifetime ERA of 2.21 and a WHIP of 1.00. The legacy is without question. And on Sunday, the sending-off for Mariano Rivera was boisterous and genuine as the New York Yankees paid tribute to the greatest relief pitcher of all time.
Prior to the game against the San Francisco Giants, the Yankees put on quite a show for the future Hall of Famer. One of the worst-kept secrets of the festivities was Metallica's performance of "Enter Sandman," Rivera's entrance music since 1999.
SportsCenter on Instagram teased the appearance:
The team honored him directly on the field, via Jesse Spector of The Sporting News:
42 painted on the field for Mariano Rivera pic.twitter.com/Pez74cNVEM— Jesse Spector (@jessespector) September 22, 2013
The Yankees also used the bases to honor Rivera, as the YES Network on Instagram showed off:
Mayor Michael Bloomberg had his own way to honor Rivera, as the Yankees tweeted on their official Twitter account:
Mayor @MikeBloomberg has declared today Mariano Rivera Day in New York City!— New York Yankees (@Yankees) September 22, 2013
Quite the honor.
Of course, gracious as ever, the man himself took the time to greet fans and sign a few autographs. From MLB on Twitter:
As the ceremony began, everyone—even the opposition—wanted to see the honoring of a legend, as Tyler Kepner of the New York Times noted:
Whiteboard in SF Giants clubhouse said Rivera ceremony starts at 12:50 "if you want to watch." Entire Giants team is on top step of dugout.— Tyler Kepner (@TylerKepner) September 22, 2013
Jackie Robinson's wife and daughter were also on hand to take in the festivities, as Mark Feinsand of the New York Daily News tweeted:
Rachel and Sharon Robinson are here for the ceremony, in Monument Park with Rivera and the Steinbrenner family.— Mark Feinsand (@FeinsandNYDN) September 22, 2013
Rivera will be the last man to ever wear the jersey No. 42, as Robinson's number was retired while Rivera was an active player. A plaque in honor of Robinson was unveiled in Monument Park, via Bob Nightengale of USA Today:
Jackie Robinson plaque is unveiled in Monument Park with Rivera the last man who will wear his number again in an MLB game.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) September 22, 2013
Here's the plaque, via the YES Network on Twitter:
As you might imagine, there has been no shortage of standing ovations for Rivera. From the Yankees' Twitter feed:
Goosebumps at Yankee Stadium right now as Mariano Rivera given a standing ovation by the packed house. #ExitSandman— New York Yankees (@Yankees) September 22, 2013
ESPN's Dan Rafael shared this reaction:
As expected, Rivera's number will now be retired with the rest of the Yankees legends, via Bruce Beck of WNBC-TV:
Yankees retire the number of Mariano Rivera! #42 - Jackie Robinson would be proud! pic.twitter.com/DQ8F4IMDLA— Bruce Beck (@BruceBeck4NY) September 22, 2013
If you don't think this is an emotional day for the fans as well as Rivera, think again. Check out this tweet from Steve Sirica:
Even famous broadcaster Dick Vitale is spreading the Rivera love on this day:
Great closer of all time has a special day - MARIANO RIVERA - They don't come any better #AWESOMEBABY— Dick Vitale (@DickieV) September 22, 2013
And of course, former teammates and one very famous former manager are on hand to honor the great closer. From the Yankees' official Twitter account:
Here are a few of the legends on hand unveiled in the ceremony, via the YES Network on Instagram:
In one of the coolest moments of the day, Rivera's wife and sons were escorted to the field by a fellow legend, via Feinsand:
Derek Jeter escorts Rivera's wife and sons out to the field.— Mark Feinsand (@FeinsandNYDN) September 22, 2013
As expected, Metallica was on hand to play as Rivera descended upon the mound. Here's the band rocking out and taking a photo with Rivera, via the YES Network on Instagram:
The ceremony and tribute weren't lost on Rivera, per Nightengale:
Rivera looking emotional wallking to the mound in front of his current and past teammates, tipping his hat to the crowd. #Yankees.— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) September 22, 2013
Rivera emotional as he begins to speak and entire #Yankees team comes onto field— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) September 22, 2013
Finally, Rivera took to the microphone and had some thanks of his own, via Feinsand:
Rivera: "I wish he was here, Mr. George Steinbrenner. For giving me the opportunity to play for his team. I love you so much. I miss him."— Mark Feinsand (@FeinsandNYDN) September 22, 2013
Rivera: "The New York Yankees are a great organztaion and you fans are the best. So let’s play ball.”— Mark Feinsand (@FeinsandNYDN) September 22, 2013
In all, it was a fitting, touching and (with Metallica on hand) rather exciting send-off to a true legend of the game and, on top of that, gentleman of the sport. On this day, all of baseball tips its cap to Rivera, one of the truly special players to ever step on a baseball field.
His devastating cutter will be missed. Well, except by hitters who had to face it in the ninth inning.