Metallica helps give Rivera a fitting sendoff

Updated: 2013-09-24 06:42

By Agencies in New York (China Daily)

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Metallica helps give Rivera a fitting sendoff

New York Yankees relief pitcher Mariano Rivera responds to a standing ovation at Yankee Stadium on Sunday.[Photo/Agencies]

He came from a village in Panama, where fishing was a way to make a living.

And Mariano Rivera, like others before him, appeared destined for a fisherman's hard life.

It was the dangerous work for his father, Mariano Rivera Palacios, whose brother Miguel died in a hospital after injuries at sea. Miguel was lashed by ropes that broke loose from a hydraulic mechanism used to reel in nets.

All of that happened in front of young Mariano, whose mouth and ribs were injured in the same accident.

His uncle's death left a mark on Mariano. Better, he thought, to concentrate on baseball than the perils of a fisherman's life.

That was 30 years ago.

On Sunday, the New York Yankees honored Rivera, who is retiring at the end of the season, with a pregame ceremony, a performance from Metallica and the retiring of his No 42.

Major League Baseball's all-time saves leader was joined on the field by team management, current and former teammates and members of his family.

"I appreciate you guys," Rivera - who played his entire career with the Yankees - said to his fellow players. "I thank you guys, I love you. You are special."

Former teammates in attendance included David Cone, Hideki Matsui, Tino Martinez, Paul O'Neill, Bernie Williams, Jorge Posada and John Wetteland.

The festivities included a performance by heavy metal band Metallica, who played Rivera's entrance song, Enter Sandman, as Rivera walked onto the field to a thunderous standing ovation from the crowd.

Rivera signed with the Yankees two years after his uncle died. He returned to fishing at times, but only when he needed money.

Alfredo Munoz, a childhood friend, remembered that Rivera's dreams lay beyond the sea. He recalls Rivera saying: "I want to be somebody. I want to be great."

And he was true to his word. He spent 19 seasons with the Yankees, freezing batters at the plate for a generation. Now, at 43, and with the most saves in the game, the long ride is coming to an end.

His childhood friends remember how Rivera hated to lose. When his team was behind, he'd throw the ball in the ocean and call it a tie. He failed in a tryout as an infielder, but signed as a pitcher with the Yankees for $3,500.

He was sent to the Dominican Republic to play, and quickly moved to Tampa, Florida. His debut in New York came in 1995.

"Mariano was a baseball player when he was still in the womb," his father said.

"Sometimes when I'm at Yankee Stadium, I'm watching from the stands and I say to myself: 'Look where Mariano has come from: Puerto Caimito, a town full of mud and a stinking fish meal plants. But this is what feeds us."

(China Daily 09/24/2013 page23)