Mariano Rivera received several gifts from just about every team the New York Yankees visited this year. Some were sentimental like the scorecard from Rivera’s first game at Comiskey Park, while others were more pragmatic, like donations to his charity foundation. The Yankees devoted an entire day to honoring Rivera with a ceremony during which they retired his number and Metallica played a live version of “Enter Sandman.”
Now, the City of New York has bestowed one more honor upon the greatest closer ever to play the game. It has nothing to do with money or clever gifts. No, the only thing this gift entails is the painting of a single letter “A.”
Yankee Stadium has always stood at the corner of E. 161st Street and River Avenue in the Bronx, but that’s about to change. The New York City Council has decided to buy a vowel and rename the block to “Rivera Avenue” as a final thank you to the man who made bats explode there for 19 years.
“E 161st St. and RiverA Ave.” was an extremely popular sign at Yankee games towards the end of the season, so I’m sure someone would have eventually painted an “A” on the River Avenue sign by hand (I would have done it). But now, no vandalism is necessary because the City has made the pun official.
In addition to serving as a clever tribute, the name change adds a cool feature to the New Yankee Stadium. For many Yankees fans, including myself, the New Stadium can never replace the Old one because besides knocking down an athletic landmark, the move demolished several qualities that made Yankee Stadium so special.
But by renaming River Avenue after one of the Yankees’ most legendary players, it gives the New Stadium one of those quirky features that give ballparks character and make them unique. Decades from now, kids can ask their dads why River Avenue becomes Rivera Avenue at Yankee Stadium and learn about how a skinny kid from Panama dominated the best hitters in the world for two decades.
The renaming of a street after him may be the final honor Rivera receives in the Bronx, but it’s definitely not the last one in his career. Indeed, Rivera should clear his schedule five years from now for a trip to 25 Main Street in Cooperstown.