The Yankees counted on Rivera to be there, towering over their team like the Empire State Building over Manhattan. His teammates' shocked expressions needed no words. Without Rivera, the Yankees are as nervous and insecure as Linus without his blanket.
"The other side might feel a little better that Mo's not out there," said Los Angeles Dodgers manager — and former Yankees star — Don Mattingly. "I'd hate to see him end like this."
Rivera's success made the Yankees forget about his three most notable failures: the home run by Cleveland's Sandy Alomar Jr. in the 1997 playoffs, the ninth-inning rally by Arizona in Game 7 of the 2001 World Series and Boston's ninth-inning rally that started the Red Sox back from the brink of elimination in Game 4 of the 2004 AL championship series.
The injury was felt beyond baseball.
"For him to have a freak accident like that, you can't explain it," Miami Heat forward Lebron James said. "No one can explain it."
In ranking Rivera's place in history, Costas cites "the combination of endurance, excellence and prominence because of the team he pitched for and how successful they were and how successful he was in the postseason."
But that's not all.
"There's also the quality of personal grace and dignity," Costas said, "which would matter at any time, but stand out even more in this time."
Rivera already is in the Hall of Fame: his caps from the 2000 and 2009 World Series and from his 400th save in 2006, the spikes he wore when he became MVP of the 1999 Series, his jersey from the 2008 All-Star game and a ball from May 29, 2009, when Rivera and Andy Pettitte combined for their record 58th win and save together.
Rivera holds an outside hope of returning late this season but it doesn't appear likely. Milwaukee pitcher Yovani Gallardo, then 22, tore an ACL on May 1, 2008, and returned that Sept. 25.
New York Mets medical director Dr. David Altchek of the Hospital for Special Surgery said torn ACLs are "really, really uncommon" in baseball, especially among older players who don't generate explosive bursts when they run. Recovery time generally takes about six months.
Alchek operated on the pitcher's shoulder in 2008 and after speaking with Rivera on Friday said he was cautiously optimistic about chances for a full return.
"I don't think there's a baseball fan who wasn't moved today watching him nearly break down in front of reporters," Burns said. "For a person who's very controlled, this is devastating in every possible angle. He needed to go out not limping. This is a proud, proud human being."
Joe Torre, Rivera's manager from 1996-2007, also predicts he'll be back.
"Even though he has a tall mountain to climb," Torre said, "I think he still has a lot of fight left in him."
Cleveland outfielder Johnny Damon — a former Yankees teammate — agreed.
"Maybe this will give him the incentive to work hard and come back next year and disturb hitters for a while longer," he said.
AP Sports Writers Jay Cohen, Tim Reynolds and Dave Skretta; AP correspondent Juan Zamorano; and AP freelance writers Maureen Mullen and Chuck Murr contributed to this report.
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