NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Exit Sandman.
Mariano Rivera, flanked by his wife and children, announced his intentions to retire after the 2013 season at a press conference Saturday morning at the Yankees’ spring training complex in Tampa, Fla.
The entire Yankees team — in uniform — was in the room to witness the iconic closer’s announcement.
“It’s official now,” Rivera said. “After this year I’ll be retired.”
Rivera said last month he’d reached a decision on his future, and promised he’d let us all in on it before Opening Day.
He delivered. This season will double as Rivera’s retirement tour, as the Yankees open at home against the Boston Red Sox on April 1.
“It has been a privilege and an honor to wear the pinstripe uniform,” Rivera said.
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“Why now? Now’s the time,” he added. “There’s nothing left. I did everything, and I’m proud.”
Rivera, baseball’s all-time leader in saves with 608, had surgery in June to repair a torn ACL in his right knee. His 2012 season ended on May 3 in Kansas City, when he went down in a heap while shagging fly balls in Kansas City.
Rivera said he would have retired after last season had he not been injured.
“I didn’t want to leave like that,” Rivera said. “I felt like I wanted to give everything, and I still have something left.”
A humble Rivera said he doesn’t consider himself the greatest of all time.
“I’m a team player,” Rivera said. “If it wasn’t for my teammates, I wouldn’t have the opportunity … That’s the legacy that I want to leave — that I was there for others.”
The living legend received a round of applause upon the conclusion of his press conference. Later on Saturday, Rivera made his spring training debut against the Atlanta Braves, kicking off his retirement and comeback proceedings within hours of each other.
“To me, there’s no sadness,” he said. “I would say (there’s) joy, because thank God I was able to play the game of baseball for so many years.”
He’ll go out with piles of accolades. The future Hall of Famer has five World Series rings and was selected to the All-Star game 12 times — all in pinstripes. Renowned for his great cutter, Rivera has posted a career 2.21 ERA, and has a mind-boggling 0.70 ERA in 96 playoff games (42 saves).
Former Braves pitcher John Smoltz said it would be “a joke” if Rivera wasn’t sent to Cooperstown in his first year on the ballot.
“Would the Yankees have won as many World Series without him? I doubt it,” Smoltz said Friday on WFAN’s “Boomer & Carton” show.
With Rivera will go the full-time use of No. 42, which was retired by baseball in 1997 to honor Jackie Robinson breaking MLB’s color barrier.
“He carried himself with dignity and grace, and that made carrying the number a tribute to Jack,” the Hall of Famer’s widow, Rachel Robinson, told ESPN.
“Being the last person to wear No. 42, I carried the legacy of Mr. Jackie for all these years,” Rivera said. “And I tried to do my best to wear No. 42 and do it with class and honor.”
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It won’t be long before Jackie is joined by the undisputed greatest closer of all time, the lanky kid from Panama with a single unhittable pitch, two plaques mounted among the legends of America’s pastime, immortalized in that sleepy town on a lake in Otsego County, N.Y.
“I just don’t think you’ll ever see another guy that can throw one pitch and dominate the game of baseball,” longtime teammate Andy Pettitte said this week. “He’s made it into a Hall of Fame pitch.”
“He’s the greatest ever,” said former Yankees manager Joe Torre, who won four World Series titles with Rivera. “It certainly isn’t a knock at the other guys. But first of all New York, where it’s the biggest fishbowl in the world, the postseason, where everybody gets a chance to go ‘let’s see how good you are’ and to scrutinize. And he responded, he responded.
“He was more than a closer. He was a regular player for us because of how much of a part of our victories he was.”
Where does he rank on the list of all-time great Yankees? Give it up for Mo in the comments!