By Rich Mancuso
BRONX, NEW YORK, MAY 29- Mariano Rivera has had many memories in Flushing Queens as a New York Yankee. Since the inception of the Subway Series between the Yankees and cross-town Mets, the all-time saves leader in baseball, who is retiring after this season, closed many games on the mound at Shea Stadium and Citi Field.
Baseball teams around the country have been paying tribute to Rivera this season with various ways of honoring the Panamanian native. Tuesday evening, prior to the second game of the four-game Subway Series at Citi Field, Rivera threw out the first pitch via an invite from Mets Chief Operating Officer Fred Wilpon.
It was only appropriate, because Rivera is more than a Yankee. To many, he has represented baseball well and in New York Rivera has become a baseball icon even as he wore pinstripes.
Wilpon, along with New York City Fire Department Commissioner Sal Cassano presented Rivera with a mounted hose nozzle from a FDNY truck and an authentic call box.
The call to the pen has made Rivera the all-time saves leader, and coming into the game Tuesday night he was one game away from surpassing Dennis Eckersley for sole possession of fourth place on baseball’s all-time games pitched list which stands at 1,071.
“Mariano,” commented Wilpon, “we’ve watched you for so many years. It’s a great honor to have you here for the last time. I wish we could see you in the World Series but I’m not sure that is going to happen.”
In the final game of the 2009 Subway Series at Citi Field, Rivera recorded his 500th career save and he threw the final pitch of the 2000 World Series at Shea Stadium won by the Yankees.
And the way the 2013 season is transpiring for the Mets it most likely won’t happen that Rivera will meet the Mets again. This is probably not the last time Rivera will be at Citi Field this season as he makes another visit as a member of the American League All-Star team at the Mid-Summer classic on Tuesday evening July 16th.
Rivera smiled and said to Wilpon, “You never know,” about the Wilpon World Series reference.
“It will be my last game here,” he said. “It has been a great career and I have enjoyed every game that I have played here. I’ve saved some games and I have blown some games here. Overall, it has been wonderful.”
The FDNY tribute was appropriate. Rivera has been tabbed as the greatest “Fireman of all-time.” Mets all-time closer John Franco, 276 saves, was behind home plate and caught the ceremonial first pitch thrown by Rivera.
e-mail Rich Mancuso: Ring786@aol.com