Rivera raised his arms in triumph when he connected, motored around first and second and speed up a little heading home to easily score as the ball kept rolling toward the wall.
“I didn’t know those bases were that long, that far,” he said. “I was like, ‘come on, put those bases closer.'”
Rivera closed out the 3-0 victory for his side by facing Tino Martinez, Bernie Williams and Sojo. Rivera induced a double-play grounder from Williams and retired Sojo on a groundout.
Rivera was introduced last among the 43 former players and family members and received a thunderous ovation from the crowd as emcee John Sterling introduced the closer by saying: “He’s used to being the last person on the field.”
The 49-year-old Rivera was back in the Bronx six months after receiving all 425 votes in balloting conducted by the Baseball Writers’ Association of America. He will be inducted at Cooperstown on July 21 along with Edgar Martinez, Mike Mussina, the late Roy Halladay and Harold Baines and Lee Smith, who were elected by the Today’s Game Era Committee.
Rivera said he has not started the speech, but thinks writing it will come naturally as he makes sure to include everyone he wants to mention.
“I can’t wait for that moment,” Rivera said. “I’ve been waiting patiently.”
Rivera is baseball’s career saves leader with a 652. With a calm demeanor and a fearsome cut fastball, he helped the Yankees win five World Series over 19 seasons and was always at his best in October, getting 42 saves with a 0.70 ERA, including 11 saves in the World Series.
“We knew that from the seventh inning on behind in the score, we had very little to no chance,” Lou Piniella said. “Mariano was so good. He could be a two-plus inning closer. If you went into that part of the ballgame behind a run or two, the ballgame was over.”
Among other first-time participants were current manager Aaron Boone, who has the Yankees in first place and also hit a ball into the left-field seats during batting practice.
Don Larsen attended and the 1956 World Series MVP received a thunderous ovation. Larsen threw the only perfect game in Fall Classic history and got a nice ovation as he made his way to the field with a walker.
The oldest former player in attendance was 94-year-old third baseman Bobby Brown, a teammate of Hall of Famers Joe DiMaggio, Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford.
Brown hit .439 in helping the Yankees win four World Series championships. A doctor who later became president of the American League, Brown was a rookie for the first Old-Timers’ Day at Yankee Stadium in 1947 when Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth appeared.
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