Mariano Rivera knew that he had thrown the final pitch of his illustrious career, and the newest Hall of Famer was fighting off what he would describe as "a bombardment of emotions" as he spotted two familiar figures approaching the mound. The greatest reliever that the game will ever know had to laugh.
Here came Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte, clad in sweatshirts and deputized by their manager, Joe Girardi, to retrieve the baseball. Rivera heard Jeter say that it was "time to go," and that was all Rivera could handle. He buried his face in Pettitte's shoulder and sobbed deeply, hugging his teammate for what felt like an eternity. Rivera called it a "blessed" moment.
"I was surprised, but at the same time, grateful that those two guys were walking towards me to get me out and being there with me, for me, when I needed them the most," Rivera recalled shortly after learning he'd become the first unanimous Hall of Fame electee in history. "It was amazing. It was so powerful that every time that I see that moment, it brings me to emotion. That was a powerful moment for me."
There was no save to record, not even a lead to protect. It took 1,115 appearances, 652 of which resulted in saves, plus all of those great moments in the postseason. Finally, the magnitude of a moment had jangled Rivera's steely nerves.
"Being able to finish the way the Lord allowed me to finish, it was spectacular," Rivera said.
Nov. 29, 1969: Rivera is born in Panama City, Panama, to parents Mariano Sr. and Delia. At the time of his retirement in 2013, he will be the final active player to have been born in the 1960s.
Feb. 17, 1990: The Yankees sign a 20-year-old Rivera as an amateur free agent for a $3,000 bonus. He makes his professional debut in the Gulf Coast League later that summer.
May 23, 1995: Now 25, Rivera makes his Major League debut, starting against the Angels in Anaheim. He strikes out the first two batters but lasts only 3 1/3 innings, allowing five runs and eight hits -- including a three-run homer to Jim Edmonds -- in a 10-0 loss.
May 28, 1995: In his second start, Rivera earns his first victory, working 5 1/3 innings of one-run, seven-hit ball in a 4-1 win over the Athletics in Oakland.
May 17, 1996: Now working exclusively out of the bullpen, Rivera pitches a scoreless ninth inning in an 8-5 victory over the Angels, recording his first Major League save. Pettitte got the win; they'd go on to combine for 72 win/saves, a big league record.
Oct. 26, 1996: With the Yankees on the precipice of their first World Series title since 1978, Rivera retires six of the seven Braves he faces before handing off Game 6 to closer John Wetteland, who records the save in New York's 3-2 victory.
Dec. 17, 1996: Coming off an exceptional season in which he hurled 107 2/3 innings and finished third in the Cy Young voting, Rivera is promoted from setup man to closer as Wetteland agrees to a four-year, $23 million contract with the Rangers.
June 1997: Rivera experiences what he would later call "a gift from God," seeing his fastball dart violently during a game of catch with reliever Ramiro Mendoza. Pitching coach Mel Stottlemyre helps him refine what will become known as his cutter.
Oct. 5, 1997: Five outs separated the Yankees from advancing past the Indians in the American League Division Series, but Sandy Alomar Jr. stuns New York with an eighth-inning homer off Rivera. The Yanks lost that game and the series; Rivera would only allow one other homer in 141 postseason innings.
Oct. 21, 1998: The Yankees cap a franchise-record 114-win regular season by steamrolling the Padres in the World Series. Rivera puts the final touch on the title, getting Mark Sweeney to ground out to third baseman Scott Brosius.
Video: WS1998 Gm4: Yankees sweep Padres, win World Series
Oct. 27, 1999: The Yankees win their second straight title, and third in four years, as Rivera gets Keith Lockhart to fly out to left fielder Chad Curtis, completing a sweep of the Braves. Rivera is named the World Series MVP, working 4 2/3 scoreless innings over three appearances.
Oct. 26, 2000: Rivera gets Mike Piazza to fly out to center fielder Bernie Williams, securing the Yankees' 4-2 victory over the Mets in Game 5 of the "Subway Series" World Series. It is Rivera's seventh World Series save, a new record.
Video: WS2000 Gm5: Sterling, Kay call final out
Nov. 4, 2001: Rivera falters in Game 7 of the World Series against Arizona, committing a throwing error on a Damian Miller bunt, then surrendering a game-tying double to Tony Womack. The Series is decided when Luis Gonzalez bloops a deciding single over the drawn-in infield. It is Rivera's only loss in 96 postseason appearances.
Oct. 16, 2003: As Aaron Boone rounds the bases for his pennant-clinching home run to defeat the Red Sox in Game 7 of the ALCS, Rivera races to the mound and kisses the Yankee Stadium pitching rubber. Rivera is named the MVP of the ALCS after posting a 1.13 ERA over eight innings.
May 28, 2004: Rivera works a scoreless ninth inning in a 7-5 victory over the Devil Rays, becoming the first Yankee and 17th big leaguer to record 300 saves.
Oct. 17, 2004: After attending a funeral in Panama earlier in the week, Rivera blows the save in Game 4 of the ALCS against Boston. Though the Yankees are still up in the series, 3-1, the Red Sox win the next three contests en route to a curse-breaking title.
July 16, 2006: Rivera seals a 6-4 victory over the White Sox for his 400th career save.
June 28, 2009: In one of his seven career plate appearances, Rivera earns his first and only career RBI with a bases-loaded walk off Francisco Rodriguez. He then finishes off a 4-2 victory over the Mets, joining Trevor Hoffman as the only members of the 500-save club.
Nov. 4, 2009: The final five outs belong to Rivera as the Yankees secure their 27th and most recent World Series championship. Rivera gets the Phillies' Shane Victorino to chop a grounder to second baseman Robinson Cano for the final out in a 7-3 victory. No other pitcher has recorded the final out of more than two Fall Classics.
May 25, 2011: Rivera becomes the 15th player to pitch in 1,000 career games, logging the final three outs of a 7-3 win over the Blue Jays.
Sept. 13, 2011: Rivera records his 600th career save, sealing a 3-2 victory over the Mariners at Safeco Field.
Sept. 17, 2011: Rivera equals Hoffman for the all-time saves record with his 601st save, protecting a 7-6 win over the Blue Jays in Toronto.
Sept. 19, 2011: Rivera becomes the all-time saves leader with his 602nd career save, recording the final three outs of a 6-4 win over the Twins at Yankee Stadium. Minnesota's Chris Parmelee strikes out on three pitches for the final out.
Video: MIN@NYY: Mo closes out Twins for save No. 602
May 3, 2012: The 42-year-old Rivera tears his right anterior cruciate ligament while tracking a fly ball during batting practice in Kansas City. Rivera's season is over, though a day later, he vows to return in 2013 for what will be his final big league campaign.
July 16, 2013: Playing in his 13th and final All-Star Game, Rivera earns an extended ovation after being summoned in the eighth inning to help preserve the AL's 3-0 victory at Citi Field. Rivera is named the game's MVP.
Video: 2013 ASG: Mariano perfect in final All-Star outing
Sept. 22, 2013: Rivera is honored in a 50-minute ceremony on "Mariano Rivera Day," as his plaque and uniform number are added to Yankee Stadium's Monument Park. He is the first active player to earn those honors.
Video: SF@NYY: Rivera's No. 42 unveiled in Monument Park
Sept. 26, 2013: Pettitte and Jeter emerge from the first-base dugout to retrieve the ball in Rivera's final big league appearance, a 4-0 loss to the Rays. Rivera laughs, then hides tears by burying his face in Pettitte's shoulder.
March 15, 2014: Major League Baseball returns to Panama for the first time since 1947 as the Yankees and Marlins play a two-game exhibition "Legend Series" honoring Rivera.
Jan. 22, 2019: Rivera is unanimously elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, appearing on all 425 ballots cast by eligible members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America.
Video: Mariano Rivera unanimously elected to Hall of Fame
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.