NEW YORK — Taking his familiar position on the Yankee Stadium rubber, Mariano Rivera wound up and delivered his famed cut fastball to his son, Mariano Jr.
It was high and outside, but no one seemed to mind.
The pitch came Saturday during a pregame celebration for baseball’s greatest closer and capped off the “Summer of Rivera.” It’s stretch that saw him hit an inside-the-park homer and get a save during his debut in the New York Yankees’ annual Old-Timers’ Day game and be inducted into the Hall of Fame as the first unanimous selection.
“I’m glad I did OK,” Rivera told the crowd.
His Hall of Fame plaque was on display on the infield grass and fans later were able to take a picture with it on the stadium concourse.
“For me, that’s the culmination of everything,” the 49-year-old Rivera said of getting to celebrate with the New York faithful. “From humble beginnings until today, there’s nothing else that you can do.”
Sporting a blue suit, Rivera was driven around the Yankee Stadium warning track and gave several thumbs-up to the crowd. He also exchanged high-fives with a few fans in the stands.
Video messages were played from former teammates Andy Pettitte, Jorge Posada and Derek Jeter. Cleveland Indians stars Yasiel Puig and Francisco Lindor joined manager Terry Francona and several other players atop the dugout steps who applauded as Rivera was driven past.
Rivera playfully acknowledged Francona during his three-minute speech.
“All my teammates that I played with, players that played against, managers that I played against,” he said. “Tito, what’d I tell you, brother?”
Rivera is baseball’s career saves leader with 652. With his cut fastball, he helped the Yankees win five World Series over his 19-year career. He was at his best in the postseason, getting a record 42 saves with a 0.70 ERA. Rivera had 11 saves in the World Series.
“When you’re talking about Hall of Fame when you finish your career is something spectacular. A blessing,” Rivera said. “That’s what this summer has been for my life.”
“Mariano of the ‘90s and 2000s is like DiMaggio and Mantle to this generation of Yankee fans,” said Joel Goldberg from Livingston, New Jersey, who took multiple family photos alongside the plaque with his wife, Abby, and sons, Seth and Howard.
The entire family sported matching Rivera T-shirts, as did many in the crowd.