09/22/08 3:43 AM ET
Yankees old guard says goodbye
Members of recent dynasty reflect on closing of Cathedral
By Bryan Hoch / MLB.com
Before the lights went dark on Yankee Stadium, Mariano Rivera found himself lined with his teammates from the four most recent World Series championship clubs, flanked by Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Andy Pettitte.
"That's why we wanted to have that picture, so we always remember that moment," Rivera said. "Like Mickey and Joe and Whitey and Yogi. That's what we represent in this era. Like Joe DiMaggio said, 'I thank the good Lord for making me a Yankee.' And that's the way it is."
As the mass of Yankees walked as one through the stadium, milling off the mound and waving their caps to left field before making a complete lap of the grassy patch in the Bronx, it was an event they could not have scripted any better.
Pettitte threw a solid five-plus innings and logged the final victory in the Stadium's history, handing the ball off to the bullpen, which paved the path to Rivera, who tossed in a perfect ninth inning.
It was not an easy day for Pettitte, who remains uncertain on his baseball future and desperately wanted to soak in as much of the proceedings as possible.
"When I'm trying to get ready, I'm usually in the weight room by myself, just trying to think about the game," Pettitte said. "I had all the TVs on in there so I could see it tonight.
"I wanted to get as much as I could and soak it all in. It was an awkward pregame for me, from the standpoint of wanting to see everybody and talk to it. I wanted to enjoy it."
But it was arguably most difficult for Posada, reduced to the role of spectator after he had season-ending surgery in late July to repair ligament damage in his throwing shoulder.
"It's sad. You look up and you see the guys around you still playing," Posada said. "They're going to go on the field. They get to play today. It's like when you're a kid and you're not allowed to play. It was tough for me."
Posada expects to be ready to catch on Opening Day across the street at the new stadium next season, but there is uncertainty as well. No one is sure what the future brings, but Posada already knows what he will miss.
"It's tough to put an end to this great place," Posada said. "I don't think there's another stadium where you can feel the way you feel at the plate," . The way you see the ball here, the ball seems like it glows when it comes in.
"Having the black back there, I don't think there's another stadium in the big leagues that has the greatest background in the world."
Plunked on the left hand with a fastball on Saturday, Jeter's swing wasn't necessarily as smooth as it had been for most of his 1,274 Yankee Stadium hits, but the 0-for-5 did not prevent Jeter from coming up big in the clutch one final time.
With his speech thanking the Yankees fans for their support through the years and speaking of the honor wearing the pinstripes demands, Jeter capped Yankee Stadium's finale on a day when he finally realized the end had arrived.
"I had a moment there before the game started," Jeter said. "I was in the clubhouse and it was just me and Andy, and another moment it was just me and Bernie [Williams].
"We were talking about how weird it is that this is the last time -- regular season, at least -- that we're going to be getting ready to play a game here at Yankee Stadium. I think that's really when it hit me."
Running from the bullpen to the strains of Metallica's "Enter Sandman" one final time, Rivera didn't have time to pause and admire the ocean of flashbulbs. It went by a bit too quickly, the closer lamented.
"I was so caught up with emotion that I think I got there faster than ever," Rivera said. "I was trying to hold on, but I couldn't. There was so much adrenaline."
With two outs in the ninth inning, Rivera knew as soon as Brian Roberts' bat struck ball, the game -- and Yankee Stadium -- was over.
All that was left was for Cody Ransom to glove the shot and become the answer to a trivia question, running it to the bag himself for a celebrated 3-U putout.
The four men soon to be grinning in the photographs had been at other celebrations -- more raucous ones, the types that were marked by heavy dry cleaning bills and parades down the Canyon of Heroes. Yet Jeter said Sunday's most definitely ranked.
"It's really tough. This is right up there at the top," Jeter said. "There's so many things that have happened here throughout the years. This is definitely right up there. We've won World Series here in 1996 and 1999, and this year's All-Star Game; they're all special in their own way."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.