CLEVELAND (92.3 The Fan) – Paying tribute to retiring legends is nothing new or out of the ordinary.
Opposing teams doing it, well that’s a different story.
The Cleveland Indians were the latest franchise to honor New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera and they did it Monday afternoon in between games of a traditional doubleheader.
Indians president Mark Shapiro presented Rivera with a gold record from the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame of Metallica’s ‘Enter Sandman’ – his patented theme music when he races from the bullpen to take the mound at Yankee Stadium.
“Whoever thought of the idea to give me a gold record with the song ‘Sandman,’ wow,” Rivera said. “It was great. I appreciate that. I know it will have a special place in my house.”
Unfortunately Rivera didn’t get to take his latest tribute home with him – yet.
The Indians are having the engraving of the date on the plaque changed to May 13, 2013 – the day he was actually honored. The ceremony was originally scheduled during their lone scheduled visit in April before the final 2 games of that series were rained out forcing Monday’s doubleheader to be played.
“I thought they were going to give him a guitar,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said. “But I actually like that better. That’s pretty neat.
“I think it’s great and very clever.”
Rivera, who announced his retirement following this season in early March, is on a farewell tour. Teams have been paying tribute and presenting him with unique gifts during his final visit to their ballpark.
Shapiro unveiled the unique gift for Rivera minutes before game 2.
“To me it’s priceless,” Rivera said. “It shows a lot of class and all I can do is say, ‘thanks.’ I appreciate it and am grateful for them doing it.”
As part of his farewell tour, Rivera has been meeting with fans and ballpark workers in every city that he visits for a final time and plans to do so for the remainder of the season. He spoke with a group of Indians workers and fans at Progressive Field for nearly 40 minutes to say his own ‘thank you’ to them in early April.
“I’m grateful to have met these people and to have a good time with them and that’s what I tried to do,” Rivera said. “Whatever the team does or doesn’t do, I appreciate that. Knowing that they are recognizing me is very special.”
Not many Indians got to Rivera over the course of his 24-year career which saw him regularly slam the door on them in the 9th inning.
But 2 games in Cleveland stand out that saw Rivera head to the clubhouse without a save and with a loss.
Oct. 5, 1997 – ALDS Game 4 – Yankees 2, Indians 1 bottom of the 8th with 2 out: Sandy Alomar Jr. hit an opposite field solo home run that barely cleared the wall in right field. Alomar’s blast tied the game, which the Indians eventually won to even the series at 2 games apiece. Cleveland went on to defeat the Yankees in a decisive game 5 to advance to the ALCS and Alomar’s home run paved the way for the franchises’ second trip to the World Series in 3 years.
Jul. 14, 2002 – Yankees 7, Indians 6 bottom of the 9th with 2 out: Bill Selby hammered a Rivera offering deep into the Yankees bullpen for a walk off grand slam that capped in improbable comeback from a 7-0 deficit. Selby’s stunning blast brought home the final 4 runs of the 6-run inning off Rivera and Cleveland won the game 10-7.
“Here in Cleveland, I had tremendous games here,” Rivera said. “We had good times here and bad times. We won many games, they beat us many times.”
Rivera, who has saved each of his last 17 chances against the Indians dating back to 2003, found it difficult to reflect on just 1 memory he’s had in Cleveland but he will always remember 1 fan – John Adams, who has been beating his drum atop the bleachers for 40 years.
“I’m going to miss John the drummer beating that drum up there,” Rivera said.
Rivera, who is assuredly a first ballot hall of famer, has saved more games than anyone in the history of the game and his 42 postseason saves are also the most ever. In 141 playoff innings he has recorded a 0.70 ERA – another major league best.
With his retirement, Rivera will also be the final major leaguer to wear No. 42 – retired by MLB in honor of Jackie Robinson.