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Joe Torre appreciates what Mariano Rivera did for him

Mariano Rivera gets congratulations from Joe Torre after

Mariano Rivera gets congratulations from Joe Torre after the Yankees defeated the Tampa Bay Devil Rays. (July 21, 2007) Credit: Newsday/Paul J. Bereswill

PHOENIX -- As Joe Torre talked Thursday about Mariano Rivera, the former Yankees manager looked upon the same turf where the two shared one of the most humbling moments of their time together.

The stadium, of course, is Chase Field. And it was there, during Game 7 of the 2001 World Series, that Rivera suffered the most crushing blown save of his career. With Rivera set to announce Saturday that he intends to retire after this season, the memories came rushing back to Torre.

The manager remembered Rivera speaking to the team before that Game 7, stepping up on his own, "talking spiritually," trying to inspire his teammates. The Yankees fell short, on a rare night that Rivera proved human. In retrospect, that's all it was -- a brief glimpse of mortality -- and ultimately can't detract from Rivera's incredible accomplishments.

"He is the greatest ever," Torre said. "It certainly isn't a knock at the other guys. But in New York, where it's the biggest fishbowl in the world, and in the postseason, where everybody gets a chance to scrutinize, he responded. He responded. He was more than a closer. He was a regular player for us, because of how much a part of the victories that he was."

Rivera was a huge part of the Yankees' four World Series titles under Torre, first as a setup man in 1996 and then as the successor to John Wetteland.

Torre recalled when he first gave the closer job to Rivera in spring training in 1997 and watched him get knocked around during one of his first exhibition games.

He stumbled much later that season, serving up the tying home run to Sandy Alomar Jr. in Game 4 of the ALDS, a series the Yankees lost. But Rivera rose from those ashes to help collect three straight World Series crowns and cement the dynasty during Torre's tenure.

"He basically made my career," Torre said, "in '96, when we came up with the formula of pitching the seventh and eighth inning. It was remarkable what we had with him and Wetteland."

With Rivera, it's about more than numbers. More than his record 608 saves during the regular season and the 42 during the postseason. The dominance is spelled out in his inimitable stat line, but Torre credits Rivera's character as well.

"There's no excuses," Torre said. "That's not in his DNA. He's always moved on with his life and attempted to get better. It never got old for him. He may have been getting old. But the intensity, his determination, never got old.

"He never put it in somebody's face, either, saying how good he was. He knew how good he was, but it was for him to feel and for us to know."

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