BOSTON (AP) - A quartet of cellos played what was certainly the classiest version of “Enter Sandman” that ever graced a baseball diamond, and the Boston Red Sox honored New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera on Sunday night before the final scheduled game at Fenway Park of career.
The lengthy ceremony opened with the Red Sox needling the likely Hall of Famer for one of his career lowlights: the blown save in Game 4 of the 2004 AL championship series that allowed Boston to come back from a 3-0 deficit and advance to the World Series.
Highlights of the appearance _ one of just five postseason blown saves in his 19-year career _ were played on the scoreboard, with commentary from former Red Sox players Dave Roberts, Kevin Millar and Bill Mueller. Then the scoreboard flashed, “But seriously …” and the accolades followed.
The entire Red Sox team waited for Rivera in the infield, and Boston slugger David Ortiz greeted him with a big hug. In keeping with the tradition of Rivera’s farewell tour, the Red Sox gave him a team-signed No. 42 that hung on the Green Monster’s manual scoreboard whenever he came in to pitch.
He was also given the pitching rubber from the visitor’s bullpen and a painting of him tipping his hat to the crowd during the 2005 ring ceremony.
“It’s a blessing to me to play here for so many years,” Rivera told reporters outside the Yankees‘ dugout before the game. “To come here to play against the Red Sox at Fenway, it’s always a great game. But it’s never easy.”
Including playoffs, Rivera was 15-7 with 64 saves and a 2.59 ERA in 127 games against Boston in his 19-year-career, starting with two innings of scoreless relief on Sept. 10, 1995. For him to face the Red Sox again _ either at Yankee Stadium or at Fenway _ both teams would have to make the playoffs.
“Hopefully it’s not the last time,” Rivera said before the game, when the Yankees were 11 1/2 games behind first-place Boston in the AL East and 2 1/2 games out in the wild-card race. “We’re fighting for something. We want to get to the playoffs. I don’t have any thinking about myself.”
The 43-year-old Rivera has said he will retire after this season, his 19th in the major leagues, all of them with the Yankees. He has 651 career saves _ tops in baseball history _ with a 2.22 ERA and even the rival Red Sox called him the greatest closer in baseball history.
“What he’s done is remarkable,” Red Sox manager John Farrell said before the game. “He’s a role model and I mean that in the greatest sense I can say it. Everyone should look up to his life.”
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