Jimmy Dugan was full of spit: There is definitely crying in baseball.
At least there was last night in the Bronx, where the greatest relief pitcher in the history of the sport said goodbye to the home crowd after 19 seasons and five World Series championships. Mariano Rivera, who has confounded batters and shattered bats with his unhittable cut-fastball ever since 1995, took the mound in Yankee Stadium for the last time. It was hardly a typical Rivera outing — even though he retired four straight Tampa Bay hitters. For one, the Yankees, who failed to qualify for the playoffs this season, were trailing, 4-0, so this wasn’t an opportunity for Rivera to add to his all-time saves record. More notably, he was pulled from the game in the ninth inning.
That’s when the tears flowed.
It wasn’t altogether unexpected that Rivera was removed from the game with one out remaining; the change gave the home crowd an opportunity to shower Rivera with a standing ovation as he left the field. But instead of Yankee manager Joe Girardi marching out to the mound to make the switch, which is customary, Rivera’s longtime teammates Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte walked out of the dugout to do the honors. “It’s time to go,” said Jeter.
When the trio embraced near the mound, Rivera lost it, as did the crowd of more than 48,000. You didn’t have to be a Yankee fan to appreciate the moment, and as the ovation went on and on and on, you almost expected the immortal Rivera to walk into some cornfield that had magically sprouted in centerfield and disappear into the ether.
Watch the moment below so you can properly lie to your grandkids that you were there the night the great Mariano said goodbye.