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“There’s also the quality of personal grace and dignity,” Costas said, “which would matter at any time, but stand out even more in this time.”

Rivera already is in the Hall of Fame: his caps from the 2000 and 2009 World Series and from his 400th save in 2006, the spikes he wore when he became MVP of the 1999 Series, his jersey from the 2008 All-Star game and a ball from May 29, 2009, when Rivera and Andy Pettitte combined for their record 58th win and save together.

Rivera holds an outside hope of returning late this season but it doesn’t appear likely. Milwaukee pitcher Yovani Gallardo, then 22, tore an ACL on May 1, 2008, and returned that Sept. 25.

New York Mets medical director Dr. David Altchek of the Hospital for Special Surgery said torn ACLs are “really, really uncommon” in baseball, especially among older players who don’t generate explosive bursts when they run. Recovery time generally takes about six months.

Alchek operated on the pitcher’s shoulder in 2008 and after speaking with Rivera on Friday said he was cautiously optimistic about chances for a full return.

“I don’t think there’s a baseball fan who wasn’t moved today watching him nearly break down in front of reporters,” Burns said. “For a person who’s very controlled, this is devastating in every possible angle. He needed to go out not limping. This is a proud, proud human being.”

Joe Torre, Rivera’s manager from 1996-2007, also predicts he’ll be back.

“Even though he has a tall mountain to climb,” Torre said, “I think he still has a lot of fight left in him.”

Cleveland outfielder Johnny Damon _ a former Yankees teammate _ agreed.

“Maybe this will give him the incentive to work hard and come back next year and disturb hitters for a while longer,” he said.


AP Sports Writers Jay Cohen, Tim Reynolds and Dave Skretta; AP correspondent Juan Zamorano; and AP freelance writers Maureen Mullen and Chuck Murr contributed to this report.