New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera became the first relief pitcher in history to win the MVP of All-Star game after he pitched a scoreless 1-2-3 eighth inning in the American League’s 3-0 victory over the National League on Tuesday at New York’s Citi Field, ensuring that the AL champion will have home-field advantage in the World Series.
But the game will be remembered for Rivera’s memorable eighth inning in his final All-Star game.
Rivera will retire after the end of the season and he had the stage to himself it the eighth inning, as his American League teammates gave him a standing ovation in dugout instead of taking the field, letting Rivera bask in the glory on the mound. Fellow players–like Angels phenom Mike Trout–were even filming the event on their mobile phones. National League All-Stars were also on the top step of the dugout giving Rivera a standing ovation.
“I took everything in because it was priceless,” Rivera said. “I will never see this again.”
Pedro Martinez was the last pitcher to win the MVP in an All-Star game in 1999 in a game that was memorable for the way in which Boston great Ted Williams was honored.
Rivera ensured the 2013 game will be remembered like the ’99 game and Cal Ripken’s final All-Star game in 2001 when Alex Rodriguez pushed him over to the shortstop position and Ripken memorably homered off Chan Ho Park.
AL manager Jim Leyland wanted to take no chances (blame Jose Valverde for making him feel that way) and put Rivera into the game in the eighth inning to ensure he got an opportunity to pitch.
“Anything can happen. Leyland wanted to make sure I pitch, so it was a great idea,” Rivera said. “I appreciate him giving me the opportunity, here in New York. I think it was perfect.”
Rivera retired the side by throwing his trademark cutter, and then left to another standing ovation and was greeted by teammates like Justin Verlander who all were showing Rivera the utmost respect in the same way Rivera has always respected the game. The hurler has been meeting–without fanfare–ushers, fans, and baseball employees in every city he visits this year to thank them for supporting the game that has been so good to him.
There was a lot of symmetry on the night. Rivera pitched the eighth inning–just like he did when John Wetteland was the Yankees closer. And it was also the last time someone wearing no. 42 will ever pitch in the All-Star game. Rivera is able to wear Jackie Robinson’s number, which Major League Baseball retired, because he had it before it was retired. Robinson’s widow, Rachel Robinson, has repeatedly said she was honored that Rivera will be the last person to wear no. 42, and it was fitting that the final All-Star game with a no. 42 was played in New York in a stadium where a team (Mets) whose colors are a combination of Brooklyn Dodgers blue and New York Giants orange. Robinson, of course, famously played for the Brooklyn Dodgers after crossing what had previously been, in the words of the late historian Jules Tygiel, the previously all-white lines.
The moment–and the night–was special, and it was not lost on Rivera, who was noticeable moved during and immediately after the eighth inning.
“It was special,” Rivera said while being interviewed in the dugout after his eighth inning performance. “Seeing the fans standing and both teams standing out of the dugout, managers, coaches, players–priceless.”