BOSTON -- The last time Mariano Rivera heard cheers at Fenway Park was Opening Day 2005. The Red Sox had just hoisted their first championship banner in 86 years, advancing to the World Series after toppling Rivera's Yankees in an epic seven-game American League Championship Series.
Rivera laughed off the cheers that day, even doffing his cap to the largely pro-Red Sox crowd. The fans returned the favor in the ninth inning on Saturday, offering the retiring closer a standing ovation as he entered for the ninth inning of the Yankees' 5-2 win over Boston.
"Yesterday, when I was going to the bullpen, they did the same thing," Rivera said. "It's like an appreciation, I guess. It's great, though. They do that, acknowledge you knowing that you've been there for so many years."
"I think it's the class of the fans here," manager Joe Girardi said. "Even though there's been a lot of history between Mo and the Red Sox, a lot of times he's been in games that are extremely important, and I think they understand what Mo has done and what he's meant to the game. And I'm sure Mo is appreciative."
After a period of struggles against the Red Sox that included games at the height of the rivalry, Rivera has straightened out his issues with Boston, striking out two around a bloop single to convert his 12th straight Fenway save opportunity on Saturday -- a streak that dates back to June 3, 2007.
"I always love to pitch here. Always," Rivera said. "Yankee Stadium is home, but when I come here, this is a great game. We play big, big games here. It's always good."
Rivera said that he had "a great day" at Fenway Park on Saturday, and it extended beyond the nine innings on the field. He met with a dozen Red Sox fans and employees in a skybox above the third-base side on Saturday, hearing their inspirational stories as Rivera's "Mo-ment of Thanks" tour continued.
J.P. and Paul Norden, brothers from Stoneham, Mass., who each lost part of their right legs in the Boston Marathon attack, had the chance to interact with Rivera, as did 13-year-old Harry Clark, a Jimmy Fund patient from Wellesley, Mass., who developed an inoperable brain tumor in 2009 but continues to cheer for David Ortiz and his teammates.
Rivera said that he was also touched by his meeting with 19-year-old Fernando Morales, a Jimmy Fund patient from Norwood, Mass., who was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma in 2011 and recently relapsed. Unable to continue playing soccer and running track, Morales has turned his attention to furthering his education.
"It was wonderful," Rivera said. "He's not giving up. He's going and doing different things. That's what it is all about. It was wonderful, beautiful. We had a great time."