As wild and wacky as the World Series was — Game 3 ending on an obstruction call at third base, Game 4 on a pickoff play at first . . . really? — the Boston Red Sox celebrating their third championship in 10 years won't be baseball's most indelible image of 2013. That honor belongs to the prince of pinstripes, the closer with class, and the last major league player to wear No. 42. This season's top 10 moments:
But those were warmups compared with the final act of Rivera's 19-year, 652-save career, when Derek Jeter and Andy Pettitte, who won four World Series with Rivera from 1996 to 2000, went to the mound in Yankee Stadium on Sept. 26 to remove Rivera from his last game.
Rivera smiled when he saw his two longtime teammates, but after handing the ball to Pettitte he broke down, sobbing on Pettitte's shoulder during a long embrace. Overwhelmed by emotion, a teary-eyed Rivera walked off the mound to a thunderous ovation that seemed to last forever.
It was a slogan for a resilient city in the wake of the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings and a mantra for a gritty, relentless Red Sox team that went from worst to first in the American League East, honoring and embracing bombing victims and first-responders along the way.
Slugger David Ortiz reflected Boston's anger and toughness when, in an emotional Fenway Park speech just days after the attack, he warned terrorists not to mess with Boston because “this is our [expletive] city!” That spirit and tenacity never waned through the summer and fall, for city or team.
St. Louis rode its clutch hitting — the Cardinals hit a major league-record .330 with runners in scoring position — and a rookie-infused pitching staff featuring flame-throwing youngsters such as Michael Wacha, Trevor Rosenthal and Carlos Martinez to its second National League pennant in three years.
But after eliminating the Dodgers in a six-game NL Championship Series, the clutch hits dried up against the Red Sox; St. Louis batted .214 (nine for 42) with runners in scoring position during the World Series.
Dodgers en fuego
The Dodgers nearly fired Manager Don Mattingly when they were 30-42 and in last place on June 22. Then they went on a historic 42-8 run, turning a 91/2-game NL West deficit into an 81/2-game lead.
Clayton Kershaw (7-2, 1.40 earned-run average); Zack Greinke (8-1, 2.25 ERA) and Hyun-Jin Ryu (6-1, 2.94) spurred the run, and the offense averaged 4.79 runs a game. It tied the best 50-game stretch since the Yankees and Cardinals posted the same record in 1941 and 1942, respectively.
Another black eye for a sport rocked by several drug scandals was a victory for those who want to clean up the game, as Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Braun and Nelson Cruz were among 14 players suspended in early August for obtaining performance-enhancing drugs from the now-defunct Biogenesis clinic in Miami.
Rodriguez, who finished out the season while appealing his 211-game suspension, and Braun, who agreed to a 65-game ban after vehemently denying he used PEDs after testing positive for testosterone in 2011, bore the brunt of criticism.
“I think it centers around greed,” Angels pitcher C.J. Wilson said. “The players want to do well to get bigger contracts. That money they earn is tainted, just like their statistics.”
Baseball had its moments in 2013
The MLB season provided plenty of memories this season, with the retirement of Yankees great Mariano Rivera taking the top spot.
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