Final Stadium events will stand forever
Molina's homer enters history books as last at hallowed park
NEW YORK -- With two outs in the ninth inning on Sunday -- one out left in the life of Yankee Stadium -- a mundane grounder from Orioles second baseman Brian Roberts approached Yankees first baseman Cody Ransom. As he usually does, Ransom fielded the grounder, stepped on the bag and handed the ball to Mariano Rivera, who ended the frame with a 1-2-3 performance.
Ransom didn't quite have time to digest the magnitude of his stepping on the bag, or process how he followed players such as Tino Martinez and the iconic Lou Gehrig in recording an out on that base at Yankee Stadium. But he would be the last.
"It's pretty cool -- it's something that I'll never forget," Ransom said. "I'll always be able to say I did it. I just didn't want to miss it, not catch it, get the last error in the Stadium."
The importance of closing the door on Yankee Stadium's storied career bestows an honor on whoever it might be. For an inning, Brian Elmer, a Mets fan, had what he understood to be the last home run ball in Yankee Stadium.
"Heck yeah," Elmer thought, holding on to Johnny Damon's third-inning three-run home run into the first row of the right-field stands.
Elmer, who said he will experience the closing of Shea Stadium this coming week, flipped the ball through his hands, contemplating the upcoming conversation with the Hall of Fame over the rights to possessing the ball. Then, an inning later, it was wiped away.
Catcher Jose Molina jacked a two-run shot into the left-center-field netting. Damon's home run ball was deemed second to last, second best. Only a few could earn the distinction of the last to net a moment at Yankee Stadium, which extended from those performing on the fields to those watching in the stands.
The magnitude of executing the lasting event -- which had fans underneath the netting trying to pull the ball through the mesh -- has yet to really sink in for a catcher who is known mostly for his defensive prowess. Of the great home run hitters who have driven a ball into the stands, it was Molina, who has three home runs on the season, capping a venue's long-ball tradition that includes Babe Ruth, Gehrig, Roger Maris and others.
"It's just one of those things that you will remember for your life," Molina said. "I think for everybody, this was a special night."
Molina hit the last home run. Andy Pettitte received the last win. Rivera fittingly threw the last pitch. And Ransom held onto the last out until passing it on to his closer.
"It was hard to let it go," Ransom admitted.
For Rivera, this was the end of a blessed career at Yankee Stadium. His journey out of the bullpen overloaded him with adrenaline, the right-hander estimating after the game that his walk to the mound was the quickest of his time in New York.
When the deed was done, Rivera turned the page on the Stadium's final chapter, but he would not keep the ball. It's going to principal owner George Steinbrenner. But Rivera will take something else with him for a lifetime.
The last moment -- that was his.
"It was emotional," Rivera said. "It was a great night. It was something that I will never forget. I was glad, I was thankful, actually, for the opportunity to be on the mound for this time for the last out. ... It will go with me until the day I die."
Jon Blau is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.