Mo overcomes tragedy to finish 2004 ALCS opener
Rivera rejoins Yankees during game after going to Panama to mourn family members
As Mariano Rivera prepares to retire, the closer's farewell tour has become a central subplot to the season. Major League Baseball's all-time saves leader has been greeted warmly in each of his road stops, and the Yankees are planning a ceremony of their own to honor Rivera's illustrious career in September.
Rivera will be the last active player to regularly wear uniform No. 42, with the number having been retired throughout MLB in 1997 to honor the achievements of barrier-breaking great Jackie Robinson. During his 19-year big league career, Rivera has also chiseled his own mark on the number's legacy. In honor of Rivera and his contributions, MLB.com is commemorating 42 notable moments from Rivera's career -- the 42 Days of Mo.
Even on one of his most difficult days, and on one of the biggest stages in the game, Mariano Rivera got the job done.
It was Oct. 12, 2004, and the Yankees and Red Sox were opening the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium. But first, Rivera attended the funeral of two family members in Panama who tragically died in an accident.
Rivera flew to New York that afternoon, made it to the ballpark around the second inning and headed to the bullpen in the bottom of the fifth. He hugged his teammates as the Bronx crowd offered an ovation and chanted his name.
It wouldn't be long before Rivera was on the mound for the ninth inning, closing out a Yanks victory like he's done so many other times.
"Believe me, I wanted to stay home and stay with my family, but I have a job to do," Rivera told MLB.com after the game. "I have 24 players and a manager that were waiting for me and that are happy for me to be here. I'm happy to be here, also.
"The most difficult part of my day was leaving my family, knowing that they are still in pain. ... It was tough coming on that plane alone. I was just thinking, there's tears coming out of my eyes. It was tough. It wasn't easy, those almost five hours on that plane."
But when David Ortiz pulled Boston within a run on a two-out triple to left field in the top of the eighth, manager Joe Torre called on Rivera. The iconic closer delivered, retiring Kevin Millar for the final out of the eighth. Rivera came back out for the ninth and induced a double play to secure the victory.
"I came here and my friends, my teammates, they treated me like a king," Rivera said later that night. "That was something special and I appreciate that."
Rivera's two family members died when they were electrocuted in the pool at his home in Panama. Rivera and his wife, Clara, flew home the night the Yankees clinched their spot in the ALCS. Clara remained in Panama to be with Rivera's family while he returned to New York, doing his job like it was business as usual despite what he'd been through personally that day.
"He did a great job," Derek Jeter said after the game. "I'm sure it was tough on him. It was an emotional day, and he did an outstanding job like he always does."