Mariano Rivera bade an emotional farewell to Yankee Stadium on Thursday evening in a 4-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays.

Major League Baseball's most acclaimed relief pitcher was removed with two outs in the ninth inning when captain Derek Jeter and retiring pitcher Andy Pettitte came to the mound.

"It's time to go," Jeter appeared to tell Rivera.

Four minutes of rapturous applause followed from the sellout crowd of more than 48,000 as Rivera broke down as he embraced Pettitte and then Jeter.

The 43-year-old Rivera, who has played 19 seasons in MLB for the Yankees, said he was unable to control himself when he realised the significance of the moment.

"I was bombarded with emotions and feelings that I couldn't describe," he said after the game.

"Everything hit at that time. I knew that was the last time. Period. I never felt like that before." 

Yankees manager Joe Girardi said that he came up with the idea for Rivera's final bow in the eighth inning, asking plate umpire Laz Diaz before the ninth inning for permission to send out his players to pull Rivera.

"I've never seen a player pull another player, so I had to ask. And then one of them was on the DL," he said, referring to Jeter being on the disabled list.

"Then I said, 'Well, can I send two?' and they said, 'Well, go ahead.' And I really appreciate because I think it made the moment even more special for Mo."

Rivera, Jeter and Pettitte have known each other since they were in the minors in 1990, and all three came up to the Yankees for the first time in 1995.

And Jeter and Pettitte both commented on Rivera's emotional farewell.

"I didn't say anything at first, and I didn't expect for him to be quite so emotional," Pettitte said.

"He broke down and just gave me a bear hug and I just bear-hugged him back. He was really crying. He was weeping, and I could feel him crying on me."

Jeter added that he thought the whole thing was "pretty cool". 

"I've never taken a pitcher out before," he said.

"We've all grown up together. It's too bad good things have to come to an end."

The oldest player in the major leagues, Rivera posted 314 of his record 652 saves at home during a 19-year big league career, and 18 of his record 42 postseason saves were at the old and new Yankee Stadium.

Rivera helped the Yankees to five World Series titles, getting the final out in four of them.

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#New York Yankees
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