Mariano Rivera is baseball’s all-time saves leader with 652. The Yankees closer is also one of baseball’s all-time good guys.
That’s been evident throughout his 19-year major league career. And it was evident again on Sunday afternoon when the Astros honored Rivera during a 17-minute pregame ceremony.
Rivera was presented with a 60-inch by 40 inch painting by sports artist and Houston resident Opie Otterstad, commissioned by the Astros. It’s in the configuration of Rivera’s uniform No. 42. The painting features 13 panels depicting significant moments in his career.
“I would like to thank the Houston Astros for the tremendous gift. Thank you to the fans,” Rivera said to the packed Minute Maid Park crowd, which has shown Rivera affection for the three-game series. And Rivera has graciously signed hundreds of autographs the past three days.
Rivera, who is retiring after Sunday’s game, apologized to the Houston fans and Astros players for not playing in Houston in the final series of the 2013 season, which concluded on Sunday.
Participating in the ceremony, which brought all players from the Astros and the Yankees out of their respective dugouts, were emcee and Hall of Fame broadcaster Milo Hamilton, former Yankees manager Joe Torre, former teammate Roger Clemens, Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and Astros president Reid Ryan.
There was a congratulatory message on the video scoreboard from Kirk Hammett of the heavy metal band Metallica, whose recording of “Enter Sandman” was Rivera’s warm-up song.
“When picking up the phone you didn’t have to worry about what number you dialed,” said Torre, who managed the Yankees from 1996-2007 under owner George Steinbrenner. “You didn’t manage under George Steinbrenner all those years unless you had somebody like this (Rivera) coming out of the bullpen.
“Every player he played with he touched in a positive way.”
When Clemens won his 300th major league game, Rivera got the save.
Clemens called Rivera, “an incredible person, an incredible teammate. Thank you from everyone in Houston for what you’ve done for baseball. We love you.”
After the ceremony Clemens walked up and hugged Andy Pettitte, who too is retiring, and was honored on Friday by the Astros.