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 the final days of the regular season.
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.
Given that he has won five World Series championships, pitched in 16 postseasons, made 13 All-Star teams and has saved 652 games, there are certainly plenty of moments Mariano Rivera could have chosen as the best of his career.
"My favorite moment was the 2009 World Series," Rivera told USA Today in July.
And why not? Rivera tossed 5 1/3 scoreless frames against the Phillies, saving Games 2 and 4 and closing out the clincher in Game 6.
But more important to Rivera was the fact that Games 3, 4 and 5 were in nearby Philadelphia, meaning he was able to share the joy with his family throughout the entire series.
"My kids were old enough to enjoy it," Rivera said. "The other [World Series], when we won, they were small."
The Yankees jumped out in front quickly in Game 6, scoring two runs in the second and two more in the third. When Hideki Matsui's double plated Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez, it had already become very clear that the Yanks were on their way to a 27th World Series title.
And -- although it wasn't a save situation -- there was no doubt who would be on the mound to close it.
Manager Joe Girardi didn't waste any time, going to Rivera with one out in the top of the eighth. The first batter Rivera faced was a red-hot Jayson Werth, who had mashed two home runs in the series. Rivera fanned him.
After a Raul Ibanez double, Rivera got Pedro Feliz to pop out to the catcher, setting the stage for another postseason ninth inning for Rivera.
The legendary closer retired two hitters sandwiched around a walk to Carlos Ruiz, and the only thing standing between the Yankees and another title was Philadelphia's Shane Victorino.
Victorino bounced harmlessly to second base, and Rivera trotted toward the first-base bag, unsure if he'd need to cover on the ground ball to the right side. When it became clear that first baseman Teixeira would take care of that, Rivera put his head down and began pumping his fist.
Teixeira squeezed the throw from second baseman Robinson Cano, and chaos ensued, with Rivera at the center of it all.
It marked the fourth time Rivera had closed out a World Series -- no one else has ever done so more than twice. It also marked the 18th time he had pitched a scoreless postseason series, and it was the 15th time he had been on the hill as a playoff series concluded.
There were plenty of reasons Rivera could have chosen in describing why the 2009 World Series was his favorite moment. But he chose the one that meant the most to him -- his family.