NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Fans were thrilled Monday as Metallica rocked out to their classic “Enter Sandman” in the outfield, and Mariano Rivera walked out of the Yankee Stadium bullpen Sunday as the guest of honor for a big-league tribute.
Before the Bronx Bombers’ game against the San Francisco Giants — which ended in a 2-1 loss — there was a parade of stars on hand to say an emotional farewell and thank you to Rivera. Former Yankees Jorge Posada and Bernie Williams, the family of baseball legend Jackie Robinson and the heavy metal band who recorded the song that became Rivera’s anthem were among them.
Rivera, however, lamented about one person who was not there — late Yankees owner George Steinbrenner. He said he would have wanted to thank Steinbrenner “for giving me the opportunity to play for his team.”
The Yankees hung Rivera’s No. 42 in Monument Park among the team’s other retired numbers.
“America has given me the pleasure since I left my country 23 years ago, and that’s why America’s a great country,” the native of Panama told fans.
“Mariano Rivera Day” generated an energetic atmosphere at Yankee Stadium, with fans — many wearing their idol’s No. 42 — standing throughout the ceremony.
Photos: Mariano Rivera Day
“That was one of the best moments of my life,” Tim Smith, of Manhattan, told 1010 WINS’ Glenn Schuck after the festivities. “I’m getting married in a month, and I would pose that (the Rivera ceremony is) the best moment of my life, but my mom and fiancee would scold me. So this is just between me and you and your millions of listeners. But that was amazing.”
Keith, a Yankees fan, said the tribute gave him chills.
“Mariano is like as close to a God-like figure on earth as you’re going to find,” he said. “And I think people see that, and they are in awe of it.”
Peter Ponville made the trip from Huntsville, Ala., to pay tribute to the future Hall of Fame closer.
“It’s monumental,” he told WCBS 880′s Peter Haskell before the ceremony. “I mean, it’s once in a generation that you get to see someone who’s had the excellence that Mariano has, his whole career culminating in one day.
“I think it’s just his desire to excel. He never did get caught up into his own hype. He just went out there and executed what he knows best.”
But Sunday’s game against the San Francisco Giants was not all about Rivera. Andy Pettitte, who announced his retirement Friday, made his final regular season home start. The Yankees, who are fighting to stay alive in the American League wild card race, are looking to complete a three-game sweep of the defending world champs.
The 41-year-old Pettitte holds MLB playoff records with 19 wins and 44 starts.
Pettitte has helped the Yanks to seven AL pennants and five World Series championships during 15 seasons in pinstripes. Following Sunday, he’s scheduled to make his final regular-season start in his hometown of Houston.
Pettitte started off with five hitless innings in what likely was his final Yankee Stadium start.
But the Giants’ Ehire Adrianza tied the score in the sixth with his first career home run. Leaving to standing ovations and a curtain call after Pedro Sandoval’s leadoff double in the eighth, Pettitte (10-11) watched the Giants’ Tony Abreu hit a go-ahead double off David Robertson.
For much of the afternoon, Pettitte had seemed on track for a vintage performance. The 41-year-old left-hander, a 255-game winner, was backed by Mark Reynolds’ third-inning homer and didn’t allow a baserunner until Sandoval’s two-out walk in the fifth.
But when Sandoval doubled to left in the eighth for the Giants’ second hit, Pettitte slammed his glove into his thigh in frustration when he saw manager Joe Girardi bounce out of the dugout.
He left to a sustained ovation, waving his cap to all parts of the stadium, and came out for another wave after a boisterous chant of “An-dy Pett-itte!”
While Rivera has saved 72 of Pettitte’s wins, the most for any tandem in major league history, Girardi called on the 13-time All-Star after Abreu’s double.
Adrianza broke a bat striking out, and Angel Pagan hit a sinking liner to center field that Curtis Granderson snared with a tumbling catch.
Alex Rodriguez led off the bottom half with a single, and Robinson Cano doubled for his third hit. Alfonso Soriano hit a sharp grounder to third base, and Nick Noonan threw home to nail pinch-runner Zoilo Almonte. Eduardo Nunez then singled to left field, but Bronx-raised Juan Perez threw Cano out trying to score.
Javier Lopez (4-2) relieved Yusmeiro Petit with two on and one out in the seventh and struck out two. Petit gave up six hits.
Sergio Romo pitched a hitless ninth for his 36th save in 41 chances. In a sign of how banged up the Yankees are, they sent 22-year-old rookie J.R. Murphy to the plate, and Romo struck him out to end the game.
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