By Sweeny Murti
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Continuing our conversation with Mariano Rivera about 10 defining moments in his career:
On Tuesday, we looked back at the thrill of victory (1998) and the agony of defeat (2001). Today we look at two of the most emotional games at Old Yankee Stadium.
The first, Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS vs. Boston.
2003: The Aaron Boone Game
After the Yankees scored three runs off Pedro Martinez in the eighth inning of Game 7 to tie the score 5-5, Mariano Rivera and Aaron Boone entered the game together. Actually, Boone had come in to pinch-run in that eighth-inning rally, but was left on base. And with the game tied and the save situation gone as they moved to the ninth, Joe Torre gave the ball to Mariano and let him go as long as he could.
Rivera threw three scoreless innings to extend the game, and became the winning pitcher when Boone, who remained in the game at third base, led off the bottom of the eleventh with his famous home run off Tim Wakefield.
“Tremendous feeling seeing Aaron Boone hit that home run. Wow!” Rivera exclaimed. “It was just incredible. So many games like that. You’re in the playoffs for so many years, you’ve seen a lot of things happen, good and bad. That game was spectacular.”
As Boone rounded the bases, the entire Yankees team ran to home plate, except Rivera, who ran to the mound and collapsed in an exhausted, celebratory heap. The question is, why the mound?
“Just thanking the Lord,” Rivera said. “That’s where I work. I had been praying since early that morning for the Lord to give us the victory. And when I was in the bullpen like that praying (earlier in the game), everything was the opposite. I didn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel, and then everything started changing.”
“I was thankful for that because we were praying for that. When that happened I ran to the mound because I was thanking the Lord. That’s the place that I work, so that’s why.”
Many Yankee fans, I’m quite certain, did the same.
2008: Last Game At Yankee Stadium
The Boone home run could be considered the last great moment at Old Yankee Stadium. It was the last great postseason victory there, for sure. In 2008, the Yankees played their last season in that stadium, and Rivera recorded the last out of the last game on September 21, 2008.
“We didn’t get to the playoffs where we wanted to go, but it was a great year,” Rivera said. “Kind of like this year, battle through the whole year, injuries and all that stuff. But it was amazing to say goodbye to that stadium, so it was a big game for me.
“Being able to throw the last pitch in that stadium … it was good, it was good.”
Afterwards, Rivera once again went out to the mound, where he does his work. But this time there was no jubilant celebration. He simply scooped up a little old stadium dirt to take home with him.
Tomorrow, Mariano’s greatest batting feat and a return to the World Series.
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