No disrespect to wrestling legend Bret Hart, but in my mind New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera is the best there is, the best there was and the best there ever will be.
Last night was his curtain call. Rivera, who has carried himself with such unbelievable class and grace during his 19-year Yankee career, exited Yankee Stadium for the final time with even more.
If this moment does not move you, you have no pulse.
In case you don’t recognize them, long time teammates Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte were the two men who walked out of the dugout to pull Rivera from the game, two men who have been linked to Rivera for a long time. It was a unique twist that manager Joe Girardi got cleared through the umpiring crew after the eighth inning. And you could tell by the smile on his face that it was extra special for Rivera.
Most of the time, farewells to athletes are ugly. We watch our heroes grow old, their bodies breakdown and their skills diminish to the point that we being to pity where we once idolized. Too often, professional athletes are unable to let go of the sport that they have dedicated their entire life to, and I cannot fault them for wanting to hang on.
But that’s what makes Rivera’s bon voyage so touching. The all-time saves leader still has gas in the tank, as evident by his 44 saves and 2.11 ERA this season. Yet he is leaving the game on his own terms, as opposed to waiting for the game to leave him.
Mariano, you will be missed. Thanks for the memories.