Enter sandman, make more memories, exit sandman.
Before he gets enshrined in Cooperstown in July, Mariano Rivera had a little business to take care of on the field at Yankee Stadium on June 23.
On Sunday afternoon, the Yankees hosted their 73rd annual old-timer’s day in the Bronx. Before they finished their four-game series with the Houston Astros and saw the return of many familiar faces to the event. This includes Mickey Rivers, Reggie Jackson, Johnny Damon, Jason Giambi and even Jerry Hairston Jr. of all people.
However, one man stood out among the rest and that was the first ever unanimous inductee into the Major League Baseball Hall of Fame, Mariano Rivera. He made his first appearance at the event since retiring back in 2013.
“I always looked forward to this day,” Rivera said. “All those years, those 19 seasons that I played, I always [wondered] when Old Timers’ Day was gonna be. I was here, early, for all those games. You share with those guys. You listen to their stories. It was amazing.”
It was six years ago, when Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter took the ball from Moe after throwing his last pitch on the mound at Yankee Stadium. On June 23, 2019, Rivera got the opportunity to return to that very same pitching rubber. Picking up right where he left off, almost as if he could get Major League hitters out in 2019.
After catching up with old friends and former teammates, here’s exactly what Mariano Rivera accomplished on Old-Timer’s Day this year.
He Jammed Paul O’Neill With A Cutter
Old-Timer’s Day always calls for some legendary matchups that will make the players and fans laugh. Over the years, David Cone has been famously known as the hitter’s pitcher the event, serving up homeruns to the likes of Tino Martinez and Hideki Matsui.
On Sunday, however, the old-timers would realize that Mariano Rivera still had some left in the tank, including Luis Sojo, who got a first pitch fast ball inside, that looked upwards to 90 miles per hour.
But first, Rivera would get his team out of an inning with one pitch to Paul O’Neill, and that was the vintage cutter getting the warrior to ground into an inning ending double play.
“I threw a cookie there and he just missed it,” Rivera said.
O’Neill hollered “owww!” after getting jammed with a the pitch, that awfully seemed like one of Moe’s famous cutters, as Paul playfully mixed it up with his former teammate after walking off the field.
“Broke my knuckles,” O’Neill said later, joined in the YES broadcast booth by Mariano Rivera, David Cone, and Michael Kay during the Astros-Yankees television broadcast.
“I remember all those years, that’s the guy that we want at the plate during crucial times,” Rivera said. “One of the most passionate hitters that I’ve ever played with.”
It was almost too easy for the 5x World Series Champion, as he showed why he could potentially still go at age 49 if he had the desire.
Moe Finally Got To Play Centerfield
In his novel, The Closer, Mariano Rivera touches on some of the biggest obstacles that he overcame in his life. Shows the way to stardom in the Bronx, with a few incidents growing up in Panama City, being sent down early in his career, among other things.
On May 3, 2012, however, Rivera was met with arguably the biggest obstacle of his storied career. He took a fall in deep left centerfield at Kauffman Stadium in Kansas City, Missouri, chasing down a fly ball during Yankees batting practice.
Rivera was always known for taking inn fly balls in the outfield during batting practice, as “shagging” fly balls was a way to stay loose for the Yankees’ closer.
Moe would land awkwardly on a catch, tearing his ACL and meniscus in the process, resulting in season-ending surgery for the greatest closer of all-time.
“I always told Joe Torre, ‘You should put me in center field,'” Rivera said. “I told Joe, ‘You can put me in the eighth inning, I’ll get the last out in center field, then I’ll come back and pitch the ninth,’ but he didn’t want to do it.”
In his final series back in 2013, Joe Girardi, former Yankees Manager, presented Rivera with the opportunity to patrol centerfield for a game in the Yankees final season series against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park.
Despite the temptation, Moe respectfully declined the offer, saying he was not at his legs were not at their best and that it would be unprofessional of him to take that opportunity away from somebody else on the roster.
In his first Old-Timers’ Day, Rivera earned a modicum of redemption and closure, playing centerfield and hauling down a well-hit fly ball off the bat of his former teammate, Luis Sojo.
Inside-The-Park HR For The Sandman
If Rivera was stealing the show already, with his violent cutter in on the hands of his opposing friends. A gold glove like play in the outfield, when he was presented the chance to take a hack at the plate against Scott Kamieniecki, Moe didn’t waste any time.
In Rivera’s career, he allowed 76 home runs in 1,283 2/3 innings. On Sunday, he finally got the chance to feel what it was like to be on the other side.
Rivera jumped all over a first pitch cookie from Nelson and riffled it into the right-centerfield gap. With Jeff Nelson, a relief pitcher, patrolling centerfield, the ball would roll all the way to the wall, allowing Rivera to take a turn around first, second and third, scoring on his first ever inside the park homerun.
“Are you kidding me?” Rivera said after his. “Not even in softball,” Rivera said. After being asked when was the last time he ever hit an inside the park homerun.
Despite a Yankees’ 9-4 loss at the hands of Justin Verlander and the Astros, Yankees’ fans were treated to one of the most memorable Old Timers’ Day games in the history of the organization. As the greatest closer to ever lace up a pair of cleats was able to fulfill his dream of playing in an Old Timers’ game, playing centerfield, and hitting a homerun.
The 13x All-Star reliever will now look forward to living out another one of his dreams. After being inshrined in Cooperstown, NY on July 22, 2019 alongside former teammate, Mike Mussina. Followed by Edgar Martinez and Roy “Doc” Halladay, as well.
Who but, Mariano Rivera.