NEW YORK -- Over the years the Rays have been witness to Mariano Rivera's greatness, and on Thursday night they paid tribute to the greatest closer in history as he made his final appearance at Yankee Stadium.
Three times the Rays stood outside their dugout to take part of the huge ovations accorded Rivera before, during and after he retired the four hitters he faced in the eighth and ninth innings of Tampa Bay's 4-0 win.
"I thought our guys did a great job of acknowledging the moment," manager Joe Maddon said. "I was very proud about the way they came out of the dugout and were totally absorbed in the moment for the greatest closer ever. It's going to be hard to imagine anybody ever surpassing [what Rivera accomplished]. It's almost like a DiMaggio streak. ... He is the greatest."
Andy Pettitte, who will also be retiring at season's end, and Derek Jeter came out to get Rivera in the ninth, prompting a huge ovation and some lengthy hugs between the longtime teammates.
"I thought it was great choreography," Maddon said. "I understand why they did it, and I thought it was great. Those are the kind of things that you don't even realize how important it is until you actually do it. They thought about it. They thought it was a good idea. Then you see Pettitte and Rivera embracing on the mound, then you know how great of an idea it actually was."
Sam Fuld noted that the night worked out well for both sides, given that the Rays won and the Yankees experienced a special moment.
"The way [Yankees manager Joe] Girardi handled it," Fuld said, "getting him an opportunity to put out a fire in the eighth and get a couple of outs in the ninth and letting the fans cheer him off the field, it was pretty cool. Couldn't have set it up any better for him. It's definitely a moment we'll all remember for the rest of our lives."
Evan Longoria allowed that he "got emotional for a second there."
"I think just watching his interview out there, too," Longoria said. "I don't think he expected to get as emotional out there as he did. I was talking to Robby Thomson, the [Yankees'] third-base coach, after it happened, and said, 'It's got to be tough for a guy like him to go out when he may not be at the top of his game, but he's still elite, he's still going out there and getting outs and getting saves.'"
Added James Loney: "It was pretty cool -- just the career he's had and just what he represents to the New York Yankees. I almost cried."
The Rays have been part of a lot of Yankees history, most recently Derek Jeter's 3,000th hit, which was a home run surrendered by David Price.
"As much history as I've seen with this team, that was, hands down, the coolest," Price said. "It's not just because we won. Just because of the player that [Rivera] is and the way that he's conducted himself. Just the complete class act. And he should be the last person to ever wear 42. He deserves that right."
Price noted that the Rays' tribute to Rivera was the least they could do.
"Anybody would have done that," he said. "It wasn't us going out of our way. He probably deserves more than that. Everybody probably should have taken off their hats and just started bowing to him, because what he's done in this game, especially with one pitch, it's remarkable."
Rivera appreciated the salute.
"Amazing," Rivera said. "It has been happening the whole year. Seeing the guys again when I came out, and still after the game, being up for me, it has no price. I appreciate that. It's humbling to myself, being able to finish the way the Lord allowed me to finish. It was spectacular. Thank God for that."
Bill Chastain is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.