Once upon a time, the New York Yankees played against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium II. Yes, it does seem like an interleague fairy tale since it was so many years ago — June 10-12, 2005, to be exact.
And, during the course of that three-game series, something seemed to intrigue Yankees closer Mariano Rivera — the very same one who received the amazing ovation and wonderful recognition during last night’s All-Star Game.
It had nothing to do with the one game he pitched in, which was the second of the three games and the Yankees’ only victory — Randy Johnson was the winning pitcher, Mark Mulder lost, Rivera (not surprisingly) got the save even though it was a 5-0 final. (Yeah, I had to look that up since I couldn’t remember all the details of the game. He entered in the bottom of the eighth inning — hmmm, sound familiar? — with the score 4-0, two outs, Abraham Nunez and Jim Edmonds on base and struck out Larry Walker looking. In the ninth, he retired That Guy Who Used to Play First Base, Reggie Sanders and Mark Grudzielanek. Thank you, Baseball Reference!)
Anyway, what was it that piqued Mo’s curiosity? Those arches that ringed the top of the old stadium.
Here’s a picture to remind you, taken from the vantage point from which I saw the greatest closer of all time pitch in person. (Tremendous view, I know — if I wanted to see the display of the retired numbers at the old ballpark. They were the section next to us. Not so great to see that cutter in action.)
We were down the left-field line watching batting practice on both Saturday and Sunday and had the chance to see him with some other relievers and coaches. They were talking, yet also often looking up toward the top of the stadium — especially Mo. Here they are on Saturday.
In addition to looking up at the arches, Mo was gesturing too — like this. They spent much time doing all of this and, obviously, we now were intrigued as well.
On Sunday, we learned just what was so fascinating.
We were back for batting practice again on Sunday, watching Mo and the rest of the bullpen out there once more. And the reason for all the talking and gesturing suddenly became clear.
It was all a plan — on how they could throw a ball through one of the arches. Out of the stadium.
Kat and I watched as they each took a turn and grabbed a ball, chucking it toward the top of the ballpark. One reached the upper deck.
As I remember it, Mo went last. It was eight years ago, so I might just recall it that way for maximum drama. Then again, he was Mariano Rivera even then. Out of respect, and respect for his plan, of course he would have been last.
Mo took his turn. And he was the only Yankees who accomplished the mission — his throw went through one of the arches and sailed out of Busch Stadium.
Of course it did.
We wondered what happened to the baseball.
Can you imagine, standing outside of Busch II somewhere near the Stan statue when a ball comes flying out of the ballpark through one of the arches?
Someone no doubt got it — and had no clue whatsoever how that baseball really got there.
Without ever knowing that the ball sailed out of the ballpark from the one and only Mariano Rivera.
Christine Coleman is the senior St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates.