Former Texas Rangers closer John Wetteland, left, and Rangers relief pitcher Joe Nathan, right, pose for a photo with New York Yankees relief pitcher Mariano Rivera, center, after presenting him with cowboy boots and hat before the start of the first inning of a baseball game in Arlington, Texas, Thursday, July 25, 2013. (AP Photo/Brandon Wade)
The way Mariano Rivera helped kick the Texas Rangers out of the playoffs, their parting gift was appropriate.
The Rangers honored Rivera before his final regular-season game in Texas, presenting baseball's career saves leader with a pair of cowboy boots inscribed with the New York Yankees logo, his name and No. 42. He was also given a cowboy hat before Thursday's series finale, and the team donated a $5,000 check for the Mariano Rivera Foundation that helps needy children.
The boots were presented by John Wetteland, who before becoming the Rangers' career saves leader was the Yankees closer and was set up by Rivera during their 1996 World Series championship season.
"Who knew that this wide-eyed kid would become the greatest closer in history? If you look back in retrospect, it makes sense," Wetteland said. "I never saw anybody who paid so much attention to detail. He would sit there quiet, but he would know what was being said. Now I tell him, 'You never said a word, you're always just looking at people,' and he says, 'I was taking it in.'"
Rivera has pitched 14 scoreless innings in 10 playoff appearances against the Rangers, including two saves in both the 1998 and 1999 AL division series the Yankees swept in three games each. The only playoff game he has pitched against Texas that the Yankees lost was Game 6 of the AL championship series in 2010, when he threw one perfect inning in the game the Rangers won to clinch their first World Series berth.
The hat was brought out by Rangers closer Joe Nathan, who had the save in last week's All-Star game after Rivera pitched the eighth. Rivera slipped the black hat over his Yankees cap to pose for pictures with Wetteland and Nathan.
Hall of Fame pitcher and major league strikeout king Nolan Ryan, the Rangers CEO, helped present the check to Rivera.
"Dominant. Professional. Ambassador," Rangers manager Ron Washington said, describing Rivera before the game. "Automatic, and any type of adjective that you can find to describe him in a bright, bright, bright, bright light, that's what you do. Class act."
Before getting to consecutive World Series in 2010 and 2011, the Rangers' only other playoff appearances had been in 1996, 1998 and 1999 — all series losses to the Yankees, who went on to win the World Series each time.
Texas catcher A.J. Pierzynski said Rivera with his cutter "commands his pitch that he does better any anyone has done" and should go down as the best reliever of all-time.
"When I think of him, I think of one pitch and 1-2-3 innings," said Rangers reliever Jason Frasor, who spent the past nine seasons pitching for Toronto in the AL East vs. the Yankees.