In the 1992 movie a League of Their Own Tom Hanks’ character admonishes one of his female baseball players for crying in the dugout by saying the often quoted phrase, “there’s no crying in baseball.”
On Thursday night in Yankee Stadium there was in fact crying allowed in baseball as New York Yankees’ closer Mariano Rivera said goodbye with class, composure and a few tears on a teammate’s shoulder.
I did not watch the moment when it happened live as the Yankees game against the Tampa Bay Rays was not televised in my market.
But when I woke up Friday morning to check out the game highlights from the night before there was a link to video of the moment Mariano left the mound for the last time.
I figured the video was worth watching since the teaser said that Derek Jeter and Andy Petittie were the ones to take Mariano out of the game which by itself is unusual. I figured it would be nice to see the tribute before heading off to work.
In hindsight I was not prepared for the video.
Once Mariano’s teammates arrived on the mound and it was clear that this was the last time that he would leave the mound in Yankee Stadium the emotions finally erupted and as he buried his head in his teammate’s shoulder the tears began to fall from his eyes.
The television broadcasters did the right thing and did not speak over the moment as broadcasters often try to do since they are taught to fill every moment of dead air.
But in that nearly eight minutes of dead air emotions rang true and the human element of sports was allowed to shine through.
Mariano went through the dugout and hugged each of his teammates before getting pushed out for one last curtain call as the hometown crowd cheered for him one final time.
Of course Mariano was not alone in shedding tears. There were people shedding tears throughout Yankee Stadium as the moment unfolded. And as I was watching the video I found myself shedding tears as well which certainly caught me by surprise.
Like most of baseball I am not a fan of the Yankees. As I have stated before there were certain Yankee players such as Don Mattingly that I rooted for growing up but by and large the Yankees were always the team that stood in the way of my Orioles and Rays reaching the postseason so it was hard to root for them. I also did not care for the free spending of the Yankees who seemed to treat the other 29 teams as their farm teams and cherry picked free agents from other teams year after year to build their super rosters.
But the moment on the mound Thursday night was not about a Yankee player or any other team for that matter. It was about a man who had given his all taking a curtain call and knowing that there would never be another moment like that.
As was the case during this year’s All Star game players from both teams and the entire crowd gave Mariano Rivera a standing ovation and a tip of the cap for a career played free of controversy in an era that needed players to look up to.
So as I watched the video I too was caught up in the emotion of the moment and had some tears flow. I later learned I was not alone in the show of emotions after the fact as the host of one of the sports talk shows I listen to on the radio admitted that he too had been brought to tears by the moment.
The closest baseball comparison to Mariano’s moment that I can think of in my lifetime was when Cal Ripken, Jr. broke Lou Gehrig’s record for consecutive games played at Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
The baseball schedule had been arranged so that the record breaking moment would take place at the Orioles home ballpark so that the Oriole nation could share in the celebration.
Much like Mariano Rivera, Cal Ripken, Jr. played the game the right way and spent his whole career with the team that drafted him.
I do not think I cried when Ripken broke the record, but I do recall it being a moment of extreme happiness as the player I had followed for as long as I could remember broke what many thought would be an untouchable record.
So like that night so many years before when all eyes were on Cal Ripken, Jr., Thursday night belonged to Mariano Rivera and the fans who wanted to say goodbye.
In the end the Rays won the game 4-0 completing the sweep of the Yankees and keeping a one-game lead for the top spot in the Wildcard.
While the night did not end with Mariano Rivera earning a save, he showed the world that watched it live and those that caught the highlight later online that even grown men can cry now and then on the baseball diamond and that is totally acceptable.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I think I have something in my eye.
Copyright 2013 R. Anderson