While others have proclaimed him the best closer in baseball history, Rivera wouldn't put that label on himself.
"I don't feel myself, the greatest of all time. I'm a team player," he said. "I would love to be remembered as a player who was always there for others."
Yankees general Brian Cashman said he knew Rivera's intention was to retire last season.
"He's irreplaceable," Cashman said. "He is the greatest of all-time. I've known him since he was in the minor leagues, and he's never changed once. You see a lot of players that get a lot of money, become famous and change over time. He hasn't changed a bit. I've got more respect for him as a player and person because of that."
Hall of Fame reliever Goose Gossage, a Yankees' guest instructor, called Rivera "not only a great pitcher, but as great a person." Gossage noted that the role of closer has gone from multiple innings to basically a one-inning job.
"Mo is as good as anybody that's ever done it," Gossage said. "The last thing I want to do is take anything away from this guy, he is great. But I would throw out the challenge that, do what we did and we'll compare apples to apples. We didn't get to pitch just one inning, but I believe today is the way they should be used."
Former Yankees catcher Jorge Posada said there is only one Mariano Rivera.
"There won't be another person who will come along and do what he did," Posada said in a statement. "I'm so happy he is going out on his terms. Now every time he steps into a ballpark this year, teams and fans can celebrate and appreciate what he has meant to this great game we play."
Rivera said he will miss being on the field but not the long travel and many nights in hotels. He will be the last player to wear No. 42 — retired for Jackie Robinson by Major League Baseball in 1997 but allowed to remain for players using it at the time.
"Being the last player to wear No. 42 is a privilege," he said.
Rivera has not pitched in an exhibition game this spring training. He usually goes at his own pace in camp, working in the bullpen and throwing in simulated games — while avoiding bus trips to opponents' spring ballparks.
The 12-time All-Star has earned a record 42 saves in the postseason while putting up an 0.70 ERA. He began his big league career in 1995 and has spent his entire time with the Yankees.
Rivera made just nine appearances last season before he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee on May 3, and he had surgery on June 12. Rivera returned to his native Panama earlier this week on a personal matter.
The Rivera era with the Yankees almost got derailed during spring training 1996, when some in the organization were not happy with the play of Jeter, then a rookie, at shortstop. After an injury to veteran Tony Fernandez, Yankees owner George Steinbrenner held meetings to consider trading Rivera to Seattle for veteran shortstop Felix Fermin.
"The Boss was honestly considering it, and forced us to have some serious conversions about it" Cashman said. "It was a fight to convince the Boss to stand down and not force us to do a deal. Thankfully we didn't do that deal, the Boss listened, backed down, made us go through the fire drill, and that was as close as we ever came to trading Mariano."
As for the future, Rivera wants to take time off after this season to spend with his family. He envisions himself working in baseball, perhaps with minor leaguers.
"I definitely will be involved in the game some way, some aspect of the game," he said.
Rivera maintained his announcement was a cause for celebration and should not be a worry for the Yankees, who have come to regard him as a constant.
"There's nothing to be sad," Rivera said. "I did everything within my power to enjoy the game, to do it well, to respect the game of baseball. Have so much joy, and no one can take that joy away from me."