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 held a ceremony of their own to honor Rivera's illustrious career on Sunday.
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.
Mariano Rivera has made a living out of throwing the game's final pitches, but on May 28, his farewell tour took him to the Citi Field mound for a ceremonial first pitch.
Rivera received the invitation from Mets chief operating officer Jeff Wilpon to perform the honor before the second game of Rivera's final Subway Series, and baseball's all-time saves leader happily accepted the offer.
"I am honored to do that. It is my pleasure," Rivera said.
The Mets honored the Yankees closer with a highlight video that included the line, "Congratulations on a Hall of Fame career."
"The fact is, it's been great to watch you," Wilpon said. "We just really want to celebrate your last year. We're going to miss you."
Rivera then strode to the mound to deliver the first pitch to John Franco, who ranks fourth on the all-time saves list with 424 and owns the Mets' franchise record with 276. Franco put on his old uniform, smiled and offered a playful bow toward Rivera before taking his spot behind the plate.
"He's a great guy -- not only is he a great pitcher, but a great guy," Franco said before the game. "There isn't anything he can't do, and that's why he's the best."
Rivera also received some distinctly New York gifts from the Mets, who praised Rivera as "the greatest fireman of all time." Wilpon and New York City Fire Commissioner Salvatore Cassano presented Rivera with a mounted hose nozzle from a FDNY truck and an authentic FDNY call box.
Rivera smiled as he expressed his gratitude for the gifts, noting that "this will be in a good place in my house."
The closer wound up throwing the final pitch of that game as well, but it didn't quite fit into the narrative of the evening's festivities. Rivera blew his first save of his final season that night as the Mets rallied for two runs in the bottom of the ninth and beat the Yankees, 2-1. Afterward, Mets third baseman David Wright called beating Rivera "more luck than anything."
But Rivera was still able to appreciate the Mets' pregame gestures, even if the first pitch was much more memorable than the last one.
"It has been great. Everywhere that I've been has been just that," Rivera said. "They appreciate what you do, they recognize that and I thank God for that."