Mariano Rivera laid two long-stemmed red roses across home plate. Tears filled Joe Girardi's eyes. Derek Jeter's face was flush with emotion.
As fans stood through “Taps” and a 2-minute moment of silence, the 27 World Series championship flags that George Steinbrenner cherished could be heard flapping at half-staff toward center field from the top of Yankee Stadium in the stiff breeze.
The New York Yankees celebrated the life of “The Boss” with a solemn 15-minute pregame tribute Friday night that included an vivid remembrance from Jeter, spoken to the crowd of 47,524 from behind the plate before. New York then paid tribute by rallying to beat Tampa Bay, 5-4, on Nick Swisher’s ninth-inning single.
“We definitely wanted to win that game,” Swisher said. “That was definitely his day.”
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Steinbrenner, the team’s driving and blustery owner, died Tuesday, two days after the death of Bob Sheppard, Yankee Stadium’s longtime public-address announcer.
New York returned home after the All-Star break to mark what both meant to a franchise obsessed with its tradition.
“We gather here tonight to honor two men who were both shining stars in the Yankee universe,” Jeter said as teammates and the Rays stood ramrod straight, caps off, in front of their dugouts. “Both men, Mr. George Steinbrenner and Mr. Bob Sheppard, cared deeply about their responsibilities to this organization and to our fans, and for that, will be forever remembered in baseball history and in our hearts.”
The new ballpark, opened last year in one of Steinbrenner’s final acts, could not have been quieter. Yankees executives in business suits watched somberly from behind the plate.
“Simply put,” Jeter said, “Mr. Steinbrenner and Mr. Sheppard both left this organization in a much better place than when they first arrived. They’ve set the example for all employees of the New York Yankees to strive to follow.”
Minnesota Twins closer Joe Nathan is on the verge of playing catch for the first time since season-ending elbow surgery in late March. Nathan set a career high and a franchise record with 47 saves last season to help Minnesota win the American League Central. … Catcher Mike Redmond is a free agent after being released by the Cleveland Indians. He was designated for assignment on July 10, when the Indians purchased the contract of Chris Gimenez from Triple-A Columbus. … Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Sean Rodriguez was running late to Yankee Stadium because of a flood at his condominium back home in Florida. Rodriguez was scratched and Gabe Kapler took his place.