Red Sox give Mariano Rivera a warm tribute

Yankees relief pitcher Mariano Rivera tips his hat Yankees relief pitcher Mariano Rivera tips his hat to the crowd following a pregame tribute in his honor. (Sept. 15, 2013) Photo Credit: AP

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BOSTON -- It may seem at first blush that it would be awkward to honor one of your fiercest competitors. Perhaps that's because it is.

The Red Sox honored Mariano Rivera Sunday night on the occasion of his final regular-season game at Fenway Park.

Along with the usual gifts and tributes for the Yankees' retiring closer was a lengthy video presentation that focused on one of his rare postseason failures: his blown save in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS with the Yankees on the verge of sweeping the series.

Former Red Sox Kevin Millar, Bill Mueller and Dave Roberts described the details of how Boston scored the tying run in the ninth inning of Game 4. The Sox went on to shock the Yankees by overcoming a three-games-to-zero deficit en route to their first World Series title since 1918.

As the video played and the fans cheered the cherished moments from Game 4, Rivera stood on the top step in the visiting dugout, leaning on the railing with his arms folded. Once Millar's walk, Roberts' steal and Mueller's tying single had been discussed and played, the scoreboard said, "But seriously . . . "

Then the Red Sox players talked about what an honor it was to compete against Rivera and called him the best closer in baseball history.

"Great ceremony. Great. Well done. Humbling to myself. I don't deserve that,'' he said. "But at the same time, definitely appreciate what the Red Sox organization did. I will never forget that."

Did the 2004 thing seem strange? "Not strange, because it was good. They have all the power to do that. They beat us that year. So why not? You have a great time, you have fun. They did, so all the power to them."

Manager Joe Girardi, asked if he thought it was "tasteless" for the Red Sox to feature a Rivera blown save, said only: "They gave him some nice gifts."

"I'm sure Mo could remind them of a few things if he wanted to," Derek Jeter told reporters. "But I thought it was funny."

When Rivera was introduced, he jogged to the mound, where the entire Red Sox team awaited him. He received hugs from David Ortiz and Dustin Pedroia and some gifts from the club.

First, the Red Sox presented Rivera a painting of the unscripted and delightful moment in April 2005 when he was greeted with a standing ovation from the fans during pregame introductions on the day the 2004 World Series flag was raised at Fenway.

Rivera, who realized that the fans were thanking him for his two blown saves in the 2004 ALCS -- along with his two blown saves in the Yankees-Red Sox series that opened the '05 season -- broke into a big smile and raised his arms in bemused thanks. It was that moment that was captured in the painting.

The Red Sox also presented Rivera the panel from the manually operated Green Monster scoreboard that had his number "42" on it. It was signed by every current Boston player.

Rivera also received a Fenway Park seat from 1934, a pitching rubber from the visiting bullpen and an undisclosed donation for his charitable foundation from the Red Sox owners.

Rivera then shook hands with the Red Sox players as Metallica's "Enter Sandman" played over the loudspeakers and highlights of Rivera succeeding against the Red Sox came up on the centerfield scoreboard.

Earlier, the Boston Cello Quartet played "Enter Sandman" to open the ceremony after finishing the national anthem. It was a terrific idea, but the song was hard to recognize. One thing that was learned is that "Enter Sandman" was not written for the cello.

Rivera has been honored by every team on his final visit this season. The Yankees are planning the mother of all Rivera tribute days on Sunday at Yankee Stadium before the 1 p.m. game against the San Francisco Giants.

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