NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — As fans chanted “We want Mo!,” the future Hall of Fame pitcher emerged from the Yankees’ dugout to a thunderous roar Thursday night and then waved to the home crowed for the last time as an active player.
Mariano Rivera, baseball’s most acclaimed relief pitcher made an emotional exit in his final appearance in the Yankees’ home pinstripes, when captain Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte came to the mound to remove him with two outs in the ninth inning of a 4-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays on Thursday night.
“It’s time to go,” Jeter appeared to tell Rivera.
In front of a sellout crowd 48,675, an overcome Rivera sobbed as he buried his head on the shoulder of Pettitte, who also is retiring when the season ends Sunday, and then hugged Jeter.
It was an extraordinary sight in a sport where a manager almost always goes to the mound to make a pitching change. Yankees manager Joe Girardi checked with the umpires to make certain Jeter, who is on the disabled list, could take part.
“I was so thankful they came out,” Rivera said after the game.
Rivera, who retired four straight batters, wiped his eyes with both arms as he walked off and blew a kiss to the first row behind the Yankees dugout. He hugged a tearful Girardi in the dugout, grabbed a towel to dab the tears, and came out again and doffed his cap to the crowd. All the while, the Rays remained in their dugout applauding.
Throughout the stands, fans blinked back tears. The final score didn’t matter much to them.
“It’s the end of an era,” fan Peter Anderson told CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez. “I’ve watched his whole career. He’s a great Yankee. He’s gonna be sorely missed.
Added Alfonso Holloman: “He’s done so much for this team and for the town and baseball in general. I think you have to salute him and let him go out on his own.”
Some fans, however, were not ready to bid Rivera farewell.
“Maybe we could convince him to come back one more year,” said Mike Sasso.
When Rivera came off, Pettitte came out for his own curtain call as the Rays waited. After the last out, Rivera remained on the bench for a moment as “New York, New York” played.
The 43-year-old Rivera then took a final walk to the mound, where he stood, rubbed his feet on the rubber, kneeled and gathered dirt as a keepsake.
Rivera had entered with one out and two on in the eighth to a recorded introduction by Bob Sheppard, the longtime Yankees public address announcer who died three years ago.
Fans stood, applauded and chanted his name as he jogged in from the bullpen to Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” and continued for two minutes as he took his warmups. The entire Tampa Bay bench emptied and stood on the dirt warning track in front of the dugout and applauded.
Fans remained on their feet, chanting his name as he got two quick outs on six pitches. In his first appearance since the Yankees retired his No. 42 during a 50-minute ceremony Sunday, Rivera retired Delmon Young on a groundout and Sam Fuld on a comebacker.
He lingered on the dugout bench when the eighth inning ended and took in the whole stadium scene as he teammates ran onto the field. Rivera jogged out last and was given another standing ovation. With the crowd shouting at a postseason level, he retired Jose Lobaton on a comebacker and Yunel Escobar on a popup to second before the famous, final scene.
The Yankees, eliminated from playoff contention, finish the season with three games in Houston.
The oldest player in the major leagues, Rivera record 314 of his record 652 saves at home during a 19-year big league career, and 18 of his record 42 postseason saves were at the old and new Yankee Stadium.
Rivera helped the Yankees to five World Series titles, getting the final out in four of them.
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(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)