To be honest, I am not a big fan of Metallica, the heavy metal band perhaps best known by the general public for what I suppose must called a song called “Enter Sandman;” a lullaby it is not.
I was with my friend at Yankee Stadium on Mariano Rivera Day to see my Yanks and my defending World Series champion SF Giants, Section 414, Row 14, which is as high up as one can go in the new Stadium. We could almost reach out and touch the deep blue sky, where the baseball gods were convening in their box.
I had spied the stage in deep-centerfield in front of Monument Park and remarked to my friend, “Metallica’s going to play live,” as we slurped and gobbled what $34 will get you these days at a game: two dogs and two large beers. But, forget the cost; we were going to be part of baseball history: Mariano Rivera would be honored, like Ruth and Gehrig and others before him. Also, Andy Pettite was making his own last Stadium start (oddly, opposed by a Giant named Petit).
By the eighth inning, Andy was playing his role all too perfectly. The Giants rookie shortstop, Ehire Adrianza had hit his first major league home run, breaking up a no-hitter in the fifth, matching Mark Reynolds’ solo shot for the Yanks, and the teams stood knotted at one apiece.
Pablo “Panda” Sandoval, the robust reigning Series MVP stood in the box awaiting Andy’s pitch to begin the eigth. Naturally, we (49,197 of us) were thinking: Get two outs, Andy, then take your standing “O,” and, maybe after David Robertson sets-up, we were going to get one more “Sandman” and Mo to close it out on his day.
But, Panda had other ideas, and jumped on the pitch, sending it on a low line to left well beyond the leftfielder Soriano’s reach. What happened then, can only happen in September, with a wild card playoff spot and pride on the line: Panda rounded first without any intention of staying there.
Then, Joe Girardi came bouncing out of the dugout. Pettite pounded his mitt, standing on this mound one last time. The players gathered around him, and then he was gone with a wave of the hat to a standing crowd.
Robertson took his cue and began to up for Mo.
Robertson took his cue and began to up for Mo.
This all happened long after the real Mettalica played “Enter Sandman” live before the first pitch (mercifully on their own muted sound system); the last “42” in the majors had been retired in Monument Park; and Mariano Rivera had thanked his Lord for it all and drawn the tears.
The Giants had begun baseball life just a short walk from this scene, over Macombs Dam Bridge and the Harlem River to Manhattan and the old Polo Grounds, where these same Yankees rented space from 1913-1922 until they built the old Stadium.
The Giants was trying to say good riddance to one of the worst seasons a World Series winner had ever had, and had stood respectfully in the dugout watching and listening to the pre-game celebration. And here, suddenly, in the eighth inning against their former cross-river rivals, was a chance to do something to remember in spring training: beat Mo and the Yankees on his day.
With that in mind, Tony Abreu promptly knocked in the go-ahead run off Robertson, manager Joe was back to the mound, Metallica was at it again, and here was Mo to get five outs, then sit and watch in the dugout while the Yanks erased the 2-1 lead.
At least that’s the script the fans had in mind.
Mo did shut the Giants down and, leading off the bottom of the eighth, a hobbled, yet never humbled A-Rod managed a single up the middle; then he limped on his $30 million-a-year leags into the dugout, as pinch-runner, Almonte, took first, but not for long. Cano immediately smacked a double just inside the first baseline, Almonte was correctly held at third, and the Yankee gods were stirring.
What happened next was all too human. Soriano hit a grounder to third and Panda’s replacement there, Noonan, went down to his left and came up throwing home. What was Almonte thinking! Posey tagged him standing up six feet from home to keep the lead!
Not to worry, we thought, there’s Cano on second. Granderson struck out, but Edwardo Nunez singled to leftfield and Cano took off. We were going to tie it! With my eyes on Nunez, to see if he would make second on the throw home, I never saw Perez’s perfect strike to Posey at home who tagged out Cano.
Had Cano lammed it around third, as he is wont to do more often than we’d like? No, the replay had him at full speed; Perez’s throw was a laser lit and aimed by the excess energy created by every missed opportunity of the Giants’ dismal season.
The Yankees went quietly in the ninth and the Giants won 2-1. But, had they ruined the day? I think not.
|Enter Mo (small white dot)|
The most astounding thing about Mariano Rivera is not so much the numbers, but that he transcended his defeats with such grace and true humility. That truly separates him from the pack, placing him not just in Hall of Fame territory, but on a higher plane, because he seems to have a higher purpose than just being the best ever at a job.
I went home believing that we had, in fact, seen the perfect ending, in which, to the end, Mo brought out the absolute best in his opponents, and perhaps in us as well.