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Three Yankees honored by fans

Three Yankees honored by fans

NEW YORK -- Three members of the New York Yankees were honored before Tuesday's game at Yankee Stadium, receiving their 2004 This Year In Baseball Awards from MLB.com.

Derek Jeter, Randy Johnson and Mariano Rivera were presented with their awards by Yankees general manager Brian Cashman. The awards were voted on by almost 800,000 fans.

Jeter won for Play of the Year, earning his award for his catch against the Red Sox last July 1. On that play, the shortstop went diving head-first into the stands after making a catch on a pop fly hit by Trot Nixon in the 12th inning.

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"Any time something is given to you by the fans, it means a lot," Jeter said. "It shows that they appreciate how you play. This is a special award."

With the game tied at 3, the Red Sox had runners at the corners with two outs in the 12th. Nixon lifted a fly ball to shallow left field, where Jeter ran the ball down near the foul line, catching it before diving head-first into the seats.

Jeter emerged from the stands with a bruise on his right cheek, a cut on his chin and a dazed look in his eyes, but he walked off the field on his own power, telling manager Joe Torre, "I'm all right."

"The catch itself wasn't hard, it was just what happened after I caught it," Jeter said. "It was a close game, so it had to be made. That's my mindset in that situation."

Jeter earned Play of the Year honors with 31.8 percent of the vote, beating out several worthy contenders, including Steve Finley's NL West-clinching grand slam for the Dodgers, Jim Edmonds and Manny Ramirez robbing opponents of home runs and Bill Mueller's walk-off home run against Rivera at Fenway Park.

Rivera was honored as Closer of the Year with 28.5 percent of the vote, beating out Boston's Keith Foulke, Houston's Brad Lidge, Los Angeles' Eric Gagne and Atlanta's John Smoltz.

"That means a lot, that the fans responded like they did," Rivera said. "It means they're following the game, following me. I'm pleased and grateful to be recognized with the award."

Rivera, whose blown save against Mueller and the Sox on July 24 was just one of four he suffered all season, led the Major Leagues with 53 saves. That mark set a new franchise record, tying him for the fourth-highest mark in Major League history.

Rivera posted a 1.94 ERA in the regular season, allowing just three home runs in 78 2/3 innings. Rivera endured three blown saves in the postseason, including potential pennant-clinching games in Games 4 and 5 of the ALCS, but the closer's regular season will rank among one of the most dominant in history.

Johnson was presented with the Individual Performance of the Year award for his perfect game against the Braves on May 18.

"To the fans that voted for me, thank you very much," Johnson said. "I'm very appreciative that they took notice of my work."

The Big Unit sat down all 27 Braves he faced that night in Atlanta, striking out 13. Johnson garnered 52.4 percent of the vote for the landslide victory. At 40 years and 251 days, he was the oldest pitcher in history to throw a perfect game. Fittingly, the final out came when he blew a 98-mph fastball past pinch-hitter Eddie Perez.

Johnson's competition for the award came from Albert Pujols, who hit three home runs and drove in five runs for the Cardinals against the Cubs, erasing a large deficit in the process, and Vladimir Guerrero, who had nine RBIs in a win over the Red Sox, setting a new Angels record.

Also in the top five were Brewers pitcher Ben Sheets, who struck out 18 Braves during a complete-game win on May 16, the highest strikout total in the Majors in 2004, and Pittsburgh's Rob Mackowiak, who hit a two-out, walk-off grand slam in the first game of a doubleheader, then hit a ninth-inning, game-tying homer in the second game -- all just hours after his wife gave birth to their child.

"To be put in the same company as all of those other baseball players that had great accomplishments throughout the year, it's great," Johnson said. "It takes nothing away from what they did. This is an honor, and I'm flattered."

Mark Feinsand is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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