Final ASG appearance fit for Mo's legend
Following memorable ovation, Yankees closer pitched perfect inning
As Mariano Rivera prepares to retire, the closer's farewell tour has become a central subplot to the season. Major League Baseball's all-time saves leader has been greeted warmly in each of his road stops, and the Yankees held a ceremony of their own to honor Rivera's illustrious career on Sunday.
Rivera will be the last active player to regularly wear uniform No. 42, with the number having been retired throughout MLB in 1997 to honor the achievements of barrier-breaking great Jackie Robinson. During his 19-year big league career, Rivera has also chiseled his own mark on the number's legacy. In honor of Rivera and his contributions, MLB.com is commemorating 42 notable moments from Rivera's career -- the 42 Days of Mo.
Jim Leyland called on Mariano Rivera an inning earlier than expected because the American League manager wanted to make sure baseball's all-time saves leader got a chance to pitch in his 13th and final All-Star Game.
So out of the bullpen came Rivera, jogging across Citi Field's outfield grass to the familiar guitar strains of "Enter Sandman." He made his way to the mound for the eighth inning amid a standing ovation from the 45,186 fans in attendance. Once he got there, the Yankees legend realized he was alone on the field, bathed in applause from the sold-out crowd and both dugouts, all of them expressing their appreciation for the retiring closer.
"When I got to the mound, I saw both sides, both teams in the dugout, and it was amazing," Rivera said. "It almost made me cry, too. I was close. It was amazing -- a scene that I will never forget."
Everyone fortunate enough to be at Citi Field the night of July 16 would surely say the same thing, for Rivera's final All-Star Game appearance was among the most memorable moments of his farewell campaign. Nobody took the field as Rivera turned to every corner of the ballpark and doffed his cap, but players scrambled out of the AL dugout to stand and applaud. The NL All-Stars lined their dugout railing, clapping or simply enjoying the show.
Leyland told Rivera about his plan during batting practice, and Rivera responded that it was a "great idea." Leyland was worried about the NL taking a lead in the eighth and not having to bat in the ninth inning. In a pregame speech to his players, Leyland said his only motivation as AL manager was to "work our fannies off and bring in the greatest closer of all time." And they did.
After the ovation ended and Royals catcher Salvador Perez took his place behind the plate, Rivera tossed a perfect eighth inning on 16 pitches, preserving his perfect 0.00 career ERA in the All-Star Game. He retired the Brewers' Jean Segura on a groundout to second base, the Cardinals' Allen Craig on a lineout to left field and the Brewers' Carlos Gomez on a groundout to shortstop.
Before and after the 2013 Midsummer Classic, the AL and NL All-Stars discussed their admiration for Rivera, how they envied his consistency on the mound and how they appreciated his humble personality off the field. He said he signed more autographs than usual for them before the game. In return, they helped give Rivera a moment he'll never forget.
"I think that the only one that will top this is the World Series," Rivera said. "Besides that, I mean, it has been outstanding. Especially when you are not expecting this. I wanted to pitch. I wanted to come to the game, and since this will be my last one, I wanted to enjoy it and be able to pitch for the last time in the All-Star Game. You know, the rest was indescribable."