BOSTON — On a day in sports that already included an NFL team trying to woo Brett Favre out of retirement, baseball's most famous recently retired athlete was already talking about a comeback before Game 2 of the World Series.
"I decided I'm going to give another shot in the National League," Mariano Rivera said, with a smile, those words entirely in jest. "I had to make you laugh, guys."
Just when you thought there were no awards or ceremonies left for baseball's all-times saves leader, Rivera accepted the Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award on Thursday. He's the 13th player to receive such an award, joining such greats as Roberto Clemente, Cal Ripken Jr. and Rickey Henderson, plus controversial figures such as Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa.
Getting the award at Fenway Park? That's a little weird for an ex-Yankee, but hey, it's the World Series. Rivera did not — as a couple Red Sox fans were overheard mistakenly complaining about — throw out the first pitch.
"[C]learly unequivocally, he's the greatest relief pitcher of all time, and did it in a way that was remarkable," commissioner Bud Selig said during the award presentation. "All records we have said are made to be broken, but this is one that I'm very confident will stand the test of time ...
" I don't want to embarrass him and I don't want to embarrass his family, but he became the face of baseball for this generation. And he did it in a way with so much class and so much dignity and so much honor, that it couldn't help but make me as the commissioner of baseball proud to think that one of our great stars of this generation represented the game so beautifully."
Rivera did say we might see him in spring training next year, but only in a visitor's role, not suited up as No. 42.
"Maybe, maybe, yes, maybe," Rivera said. "If I'm in Tampa, I will take a little half an hour to an hour to say hi to the boys. Why not? I love them. And that's what I have done my whole career. So they won't be strangers for me. Those are my boys and they always will be. So if I'm there, I will say hello definitely."
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