Metallica opened up the special day to pay tribute to Mariano Rivera as the New York Yankees retired his No. 42 on Sunday, and the great reliever also honored Jackie Robinson during a ceremony in Yankee Stadium’s Monument Park.
Robinson’s No. 42 was retired throughout the major leagues in 1997 on the 50th anniversary of the day the Brooklyn Dodgers second baseman broke baseball’s color barrier. Players wearing 42 at the time were grandfathered.
“It is a great pleasure and honor for me to be the last player to ever wear number 42,” Rivera said during the 50-minute ceremonies before the last regular-season day home game of his 19-season career.
As Rivera stood nearby, Robinson’s wife Rachel unveiled a plaque dedicated to Jackie. Then with his wife and three sons, Rivera uncovered his number – changed from Robinson’s Dodger Blue to Yankees navy – that will be on display in Monument Park alongside the 15 other retired Yankees numbers, honoring 16 players and managers.
Before a sellout crowd, the Yankees staged a sort of this is your baseball life pageant for Rivera. Several of Rivera’s former teammates were on hand, including Core Four member Jorge Posada, who in a role reversal threw a ceremonial first pitch that Rivera caught. Former manager Joe Torre also was on hand along with Gene Michael, the general manager at the time Rivera signed with the organization in 1990.
After video highlights of a 19-year big league career that includes a record 652 saves, a recording of Yankees longtime public address announcer Bob Sheppard introduced Rivera.
Then the bullpen door swung open and the first chords of “Enter Sandman,” rang out. Only this time the song that for more than a decade almost always indicated the end of the game for New York’s opponent was being played live.
Metal icon “Metallica” performed their hit from a stage in center field, lead singer James Hetfield crying out, “For you Mariano.” Instead of jogging in from the bullpen, Rivera slowly walked to the infield.
Standing in front of the mound, many of Rivera’s friends and family took photos and videos as the 13-time All-Star was given several long ovations and serenaded with chants of “Mar-i-ano!”
While “Metallica” played, Andy Pettitte, Rivera’s teammate on five World Series championships, began his warmups in right field.
Pettitte announced Friday – with Rivera’s encouragement – that he was also retiring at the end of the season and, in a neat coincidence, his final regular-season start was to come on Rivera’s day.
Rivera has saved 72 of Pettitte’s 255 regular-season wins, the most for any tandem in major league history.
At every stadium the Yankees visited this season, Rivera was presented gifts of appreciation. He was given checks to his foundation and everything from a surfboard from the Oakland Athletics to a rocking chair made of broken bats – some caused by Rivera’s signature cutter – from the Minnesota Twins.
The San Franicsco Giants, led by pitching coach Dave Righetti – the former Yankee that Rivera supplanted as the team’s career saves leader – gave Rivera an ink print of his appearance at their ballpark in 2007 and a guitar from “Metallica” member Kirk Hammett signed by Giants Hall of Famer Willie Mays.
“It’s a credit to not just his talent but who he is,” Giants manager Bruce Bochy said of the adulation Rivera received from opponents. “He’s one of the greatest people in the game as far as how he handles himself, how humble he is, how well respected and revered he is by all the other clubs.”