Yankee fans weren’t alone Thursday night.
All of baseball shed a tear, too.
How could you not get a little choked up watching Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter walk to the Yankee Stadium mound, signal to the home plate umpire for a reliever and then take the ball from Mariano Rivera for the final time?
The greatest reliever in the history of the game had pitched for the last time in front of his home, adoring crowd. Two of his best friends, two of his teammates for so much of his historic 19-year career were there to escort him off the field. All of baseball bore witness to it.
That’s truly priceless.
Credit Yankee skipper Joe Girardi for having the forethought to check with the umpires and make sure there would be no issue with sending Pettitte and Jeter to the mound with two outs recorded in the ninth inning in what turned out to be a 4-0 loss to the Rays. And credit Rivera for doing what he’s done better than anyone else.
He came into the game and got outs. Four to be exact, helping the Yankees escape an eighth-inning jam before retiring two batters in the ninth.
That’s when baseball showed its heart and soul.
As Pettitte and Jeter walked to the mound, the Rays came out of the dugout and stood there applauding. Every person in Yankee Stadium got their feet and watched as Pettitte took the ball and hugged his friend. All smiles to that point, Rivera buried his head in Pettitte’s should and cried, lingering as long as he possibly could.
The emotion was so genuine and so pure you couldn’t help but tear up yourself. I did. I’m certain you did, too.
All of baseball did.