Mariano Rivera thanked the fans in Houston — just as he’s done in every other city that honored the retiring New York Yankees closer this year.
Then he threw in something a little different Sunday: an apology.
Rivera was honest about why he skipped the final three games of his career. It just couldn’t get any better than Thursday night in Yankee Stadium, when baseball’s career saves leader wept on the shoulder of Andy Pettitte — the left-hander and captain Derek Jeter came to the mound to take him out of a game for the last time.
”I want to keep that memory of mine,” Rivera told the crowd of 40,542, second largest of the season at Minute Maid Park behind opening day. ”For that, I apologize. You guys deserved more, but I’m being a little selfish.”
Roger Clemens, Rivera’s old teammate who grew up in Houston and pitched for the Astros, attended the ceremony before New York’s 5-1 win in 14 innings over the Astros. So did Joe Torre, Rivera’s manager for 12 seasons and now an executive with Major League Baseball.
”I was there for 12 years, and trust me, you don’t get a chance to manage for George Steinbrenner for 12 years unless you have somebody like this coming out of that bullpen,” Torre said.
Rivera was presented with artwork commemorating his career, and there was a video message from Kirk Hammett of Metallica, performer of the song ”Enter Sandman” that played each time Rivera entered the game.
After the game, the 13-time All-Star smiled when asked if manager Joe Girardi asked about his availability as the extra innings piled up.
”No, no, no, no,” he said. ”Definitely that wasn’t going to happen.”
He was among the earliest to arrive in the Yankees clubhouse Sunday morning, and he lingered for a while as some teammates hustled to go home for the offseason. He was still signing baseballs, and sharing hugs every few minutes. Some reporters even took a moment to say thanks.
”I’m happy with my decision,” he said. ”I’m OK with it.”