NEW YORK -- If this was Joe Girardi's last game at Yankee Stadium as the manager of the home team, he certainly orchestrated a wow finish.
It was Girardi who came up with the idea, on the fly, to have Andy Pettitte and Derek Jeter go out to the mound to get their longtime teammate, Mariano Rivera, for the last time in the ninth inning, creating an incredibly powerful, and real, emotional moment on the field. And in order to make it happen, Girardi first had to sell it to Pettitte, who wasn't quite sure about the wisdom of it all, and then to the umpires, who might have questioned its legality.
But in the end, it got done. Crew chief Mike Winters gave his OK for two players -- one of whom, Jeter, is on the 60-day disabled list and technically not even on the roster -- to remove Rivera, and Pettitte wound up sharing a long tearful hug with Rivera that will be a staple of highlight shows perhaps for years to come.
"I started thinking about it in the eighth inning," said Girardi, who broke down at the first question at his postgame press conference. "Two guys that have been linked to him a long time, came up through the minor leagues, have been through a lot together. I think it made the moment even more special for Mo."
But as he sent Rivera out to pitch with one out and two runners on in the eighth, it was business as usual. Asked what he said to Mo before sending him out, Girardi said, "What I say to every reliever in that situation. 'First and second, one out,'" he said.
After the game, however, the emotion of the night overwhelmed Girardi, too, and his eyes were red-rimmed as he sat behind the podium.
"That was as good as it gets," he said. "It was probably as special of a going out for any player I've seen."
Clearly, the manager will miss Rivera, and not only for his virtually drama-free ninth innings.
"You think about the whole year, what he’s done and how he’s given back to baseball, how he's given back to each city," Girardi said. "He makes everyone's life better, just the way he goes about his business with humility, and it was special to be out there."
Asked what the moment said about the man who dreamed it up, Pettitte said, "It says that he’s special, you know? He’s a great man. I mean, he’s, what else can you say? He’s special in every way, he was a great friend to me when I played this game and he was a teammate, and he's been amazing to me as a manager, and you can’t say much more than he's just a good man, and I love him to death."