As Mariano Rivera prepares to retire, the closer's farewell tour has become a central subplot to the season. Major League Baseball's all-time saves leader has been greeted warmly in each of his road stops, and the Yankees are planning a ceremony of their own to honor Rivera's illustrious career in September.
Rivera will be the last active player to regularly wear uniform No. 42, with the number having been retired throughout MLB in 1997 to honor the achievements of barrier-breaking great Jackie Robinson. During his 19-year big league career, Rivera has also chiseled his own mark on the number's legacy. In honor of Rivera and his contributions, MLB.com is commemorating 42 notable moments from Rivera's career -- the 42 Days of Mo.
The Yankees held the lead going into the ninth inning. Metallica's "Enter Sandman" blared, and Mariano Rivera made his way in from the Yankee Stadium bullpen, as he had done so many times before.
Only, this time was a little different.
It was April 17, 2009, and New York was hosting Cleveland in the second official game at the new Yankee Stadium. The park's Opening Day had been a disappointment, a 10-2 loss. But this time, Derek Jeter hit a go-ahead solo home run in the eighth inning, which put the game firmly in Rivera's hands.
By that point, Rivera had notched 230 of his 484 career saves at the old Yankee Stadium, also the site of many postseason triumphs. He had debuted there as a starting pitcher on June 6, 1995, converted his first save chance there the following May 17 and spent so much time there as he transformed into a perennial All-Star closer.
But Rivera happily welcomed his new home, with many of the same features -- plus some modern upgrades.
"To me, I hope for just the same," he said shortly before Opening Day. "To me, it's still Yankee Stadium."
Like Rivera's entrance, his performance remained unchanged.
He got in a little trouble -- as even the best sometimes do -- giving up a pair of one-out singles to put runners on first and second. But that's as close as the Indians got to a rally.
Rivera got ahead of Grady Sizemore, 1-2, and fired his trademark cutter to the outside corner. Sizemore waved at it for the second out. Mark DeRosa then worked the count full before taking a cutter that darted to the high outside corner, a borderline pitch. Umpire Phil Cuzzi sided with Rivera, and the game was over.
"It was great," Rivera said of locking down his franchise's first win at its brand-new home. "There was good adrenaline, good everything. It was close, but we won the game. That's the most important thing."