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George Steinbrenner, Bob Sheppard and Alex Rodriguez

 Not surprisingly, there's much more discussion of George Steinbrenner and Bob Sheppard here at Yankee Stadium than there is tonight's important Rays-Yankees game. It should be a memorable night. It sounds like the ceremony will be relatively understated.

Mariano Rivera spoke about his fondness for Steinbrenner. He said that, at the outset of the 2000 World Series, he made a wager with The Boss: If the Yankees won, then Steinbrenner would fly Rivera and his family to their native Panama. If the Mets won, then Rivera would treat Steinbrenner to a meal at the restaurant of his choosing.

Two days after the Yankees prevailed, Rivera received a phone call: It was Steinbrenner, lining up the specifics for Rivera's trip home.

Meanwhile, TBS will tribute Steinbrenner in awesome fashion - with "Seinfeld" reruns featuring the Steinbrenner character.

--Regarding Bob Sheppard, The Daily News made hay over the fact that no Yankees player attended Sheppard's funeral. I don't know. As Bill Madden points out in his column, Sheppard wasn't particularly close with the players _ by Sheppard's choosing. The Yankees employees he knew the best did attend, and the fact that Brian Cashman delivered a eulogy speaks to the seriousness with which the Yankees treated this event.

Should one player have gone, serving as an ambassador? Sure, that would've been right. A David Cone, say, or a Joe Pepitone. But to draw such attention to it, to me, stains what should've been a day and a moment all about the great Sheppard.

--Alex Rodriguez is playing tonight, and Joe Girardi, in his pre-game news conference, grew emotional when he started defending his decision not to play A-Rod in Tuesday night's All-Star Game.

I'm still not quite clear over Girardi's breakdown of his ninth-inning strategy. Apparently, if the American League had tied the game, sending it into extra innings, then Girardi was going to lift third baseman Adrian Beltre (whom he felt compelled to let hit in the ninth, out of respect). Although he still had two third baseman, A-Rod and Ty Wiggington - who, by virtue of a new rule, was eligible to re-enter - to insert.

In any case, Girardi somehow spun it to make it about protecting players' health. "I would rather be fired," he said, "than risk the health of one of my players."

This will probably fade away. The only way it won't, really, is if the Yankees lose the World Series on a walkoff hit in Game 7, in which case this story will live on for a very long time. But what are the chances of that?

--Jon Heyman offers this primer on potentially available pitchers, as the trade deadline approaches.

--We joked earlier today about a Padres injury plague. Maybe it's no joke. Reliever Mike Adams is now out.

UPDATE, 7:04 p.m.: It was indeed a nice tribute. A quick video compilation of Steinbrenner's life. Mariano Rivera placed two red roses on home plate. Derek Jeter made a good speech. A performance of "Taps" by a bugler with the West Point Band. 

And in honor of Sheppard, the public-address system won't be used during the game.

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