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Mariano cherishes ball from 400th career save

Yankees closer joined elite company after two-inning outing against White Sox

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 are planning a ceremony of their own to honor Rivera's illustrious career in September.

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, is commemorating 42 notable moments from Rivera's career -- the 42 Days of Mo.

Mariano Rivera really had to put in work to get his milestone 400th save. And for that reason, it's one he wouldn't soon forget or let go of. Literally.

After the iconic Yankees closer threw two full innings on July 16, 2006, to lock down New York's 6-4 win against the White Sox at Yankee Stadium, he was reluctant to give up the baseball, even for the Hall of Fame.

"I want that one," Rivera told at the time. "I don't know what I'll have to do, but I'll give them something else -- maybe another ball.

"I can't imagine having this at this time," the then-36-year-old Rivera added. "It's a blessing. You never even think about that. With the blessing of the Lord, I just continue to do this thing."

It was his 21st save of the season, and he became just the fourth reliever in Major League history to reach the 400-save plateau, joining John Franco, Lee Smith and Trevor Hoffman before eventually surpassing them all when he became the game's all-time leader with his 602nd save in 2011.

On that Sunday afternoon in 2006, Rivera entered in the eighth after Kyle Farnsworth gave up a leadoff home run and back-to-back singles to the White Sox, cutting the Yanks' lead to two. Rivera ended the inning in seven pitches with a popup to second base and a 4-6-3 double play to wiggle out of the jam.

Rivera returned for the ninth and gave up a Tadahito Iguchi double and walked Jim Thome to begin the frame. But he got another double play, then struck out Jermaine Dye to end the game. Eventful, indeed.

"He's somebody that we never take for granted," shortstop Derek Jeter said that afternoon. "The reason why we've been successful for a number of years is he's a guy who really shortens games."

Joey Nowak is a reporter for Follow him on Twitter at @joeynowak.
Read More: New York Yankees, Mariano Rivera