Red Sox pay tribute to all-time saves leader with elaborate ceremony
BOSTON -- The Red Sox paid tribute to Mariano Rivera's stellar career in an elaborate pregame ceremony on Sunday night at Fenway Park, calling the retiring Yankees closer "a real gentleman, a fierce competitor and a most worthy opponent."
Baseball's all-time saves leader received an extended standing ovation from the Boston crowd as he was greeted in the center of the infield by the entire Red Sox roster.
"I definitely appreciate what the Red Sox organization did," Rivera said. "I will never forget that."
Rivera took the opportunity to leave his mark on the century-old building, scribbling a personal note on the bullpen wall while his Yankees were taking the last swings of a 9-2 loss to the Red Sox. Underneath his meticulous, swirling signature, Rivera wrote: "Last to wear #42. Thank you for everything."
In what was arguably the most detailed celebration of Rivera's accomplishments to date this season, the 43-year-old was feted with gifts acknowledging his many successes. This still being the game's most historic rivalry, the Red Sox also made light of one of Rivera's most memorable failures.
The Boston Cello Quartet performed a string rendition of Metallica's "Enter Sandman," and a tongue-in-cheek video tribute followed; "less of a toast and more of a roast," in the words of announcer Dave O'Brien.
Three members of the 2004 "Reverse the Curse" Red Sox, Bill Mueller, Kevin Millar and Dave Roberts, took turns narrating highlights of Rivera's blown save in Game 4 of that epic American League Championship Series.
"It was great. Well deserved," said Red Sox slugger David Ortiz. "A guy with that kind of career and kind of person he is, I think there's none better."
The video continued with the 2005 Opening Day ceremonies, when Rivera had doffed his cap to the cheering Fenway fans. Rivera watched from the railing of the visiting dugout, then finally joined the Red Sox on the field and received a hug from Ortiz.
Ortiz presented Rivera with a painting that depicted a moment from that afternoon in 2005, as Rivera raised both arms to acknowledge a Fenway crowd thanking him for his role in the Red Sox's historic comeback the previous October.
Yankees-Red Sox Mo-ments
Rivera's scoreless relief: In one of his longest postseason appearances, Rivera throws three scoreless innings as the Yankees win Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS. Roberts turns the series around: Dave Roberts steals second base and later scores to tie the game, sparking the Red Sox's epic comeback in the 2004 ALCS. Sox stay alive: Three outs from elimination, Bill Mueller scores Dave Roberts to force extras, and Papi walks off in the 12th Red Sox fans cheer for Mo: Rivera receives a standing ovation from the Boston crowd on the day the Red Sox receive their 2004 World Series rings. Varitek's game-tying sac fly: Jason Varitek drives in Roberts with a sacrifice fly, tying Game 5 of the 2004 ALCS.
"Hey, they won. You know?" Rivera said. "We didn't give it to them; I didn't give it to them. They won."
Dustin Pedroia presented Rivera with the green "42" placard that has hung on the Green Monster for each of Rivera's appearances at Fenway Park, signed by the entire 2013 Red Sox roster.
Since Rivera is the last active player to wear No. 42, the sign will never be used again.
Jon Lester unveiled a blue 1934 Fenway Park seat with the No. 42 on it, and Boston closer Koji Uehara offered Rivera the pitching rubber from the visiting bullpen with an inscribed plaque.
Those treasures only begin to touch the admiration that has flown all season long in Rivera's direction around the league, and the Red Sox clubhouse is no exception.
"He's going to be the first 100 percent Hall of Famer," Boston outfielder Jonny Gomes said. "I think they could change the rule for him and put him in the Hall of Fame next year. They don't have to wait five years. He's that remarkable of a person and a pitcher."
Red Sox ownership also presented Rivera with a donation to assist Rivera's charitable endeavors in the United States and Panama.
"He's a role model, and I mean that in the greatest sense that I can say it," Red Sox manager John Farrell said. "Everyone should look up to him, the way he lives his life."
Counting the postseason, Rivera has pitched in 60 games at Fenway Park -- more than any visiting reliever. He said that he has always loved to come to the ancient building, relishing the intensity of the rivalry and the passion of the fans on both sides.
"I would say, thank you for the support," Rivera said. "Even when they come here to boo us, we don't expect anything better than that. We come here to play the game that we love and we come to play hard. The respect that I have gotten, that's what you appreciate."
Rivera also expressed hope that, with the Yankees fighting to secure a playoff spot, the man with more postseason saves than anyone in history may still be able to warm up one more October night in Boston.
"Hopefully it's not the last time," Rivera said. "It's a blessing to be here for so many years. It has been wonderful."