The Yankees first meaningless game of the season was also their seventh sellout of the year, and that massive crowd actually stuck around for one last glimpse of Mariano Rivera. The game itself was brutal — a 4-0 loss to the Rays, only three Yankees hits, playoff hopes were already long gone — but Rivera’s final appearance at Yankee Stadium made this a must-see event. He entered with two on and one out in the eighth, jogging in from the bullpen to a surprise taped introduction by Bob Sheppard and to the familiar sounds of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman.” Camera flashes erupted all around him, the rest of the Yankees relievers went to the wall to watch, and even the Rays came out of their dugout to applaud. Rivera got two quick outs to strand the runners in the eighth, then got the first two outs of the ninth inning. Two of his four outs were balls he fielded himself.
Then came the tears.
In Rivera’s final moment at Yankee Stadium, Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte were sent to the mound to pull Rivera from the game. Rivera smiled, hugged Pettittte, and began to sob into Pettitte’s shoulder. He clung to Pettitte before turning to Jeter, and only after that lengthy and emotional moment on the mound did Rivera walk to the dugout. He saluted the crowd, hugged Joe Girardi, hugged his teammates, then stepped back on the field for a curtain call. It was Matt Daley who finished off the top of the ninth, after which the Rays waited to take the field until Pettitte came out for a curtain call of his own.
In a meaningless game, it was perhaps the year’s most meaningful series of events.
Associated Press photo