How Neil Diamond almost ruined my Mariano Rivera moment

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As a kid growing up in Brooklyn—and a die-hard New York Yankees fan—I’d often take the D Train from Church Avenue in Brooklyn to the 161st Street stop in the Bronx on game day. For $1.50, I could get a seat in the right field bleachers to see my favorite sports team.

When Thurman Munson died on August 2, 1979, I went to Yankee Stadium and sat in the right field  bleachers because—with our captain gone—I wanted to be around family. I’ll never forget when the PA announced asked for a moment of silence and the entire stadium, instead, began a chant of “Thurman, Thurman, Thurman…” that lasted several minutes.

During the chant I looked down at Reggie Jackson—maybe 20 yards away—and watching him use his sleeve to wipe the tears from his eyes. Had Jackson raised his head and looked in my direction, he would have seen me do the same.

While my love for baseball has diminished, I’m still a devoted Yankees fan. And watching Mariano Rivera—the greatest closer in the history of baseball— walk out to an empty field during last night’s MLB All-Star game and take in all the love that the Citi Field crowd showered on him provided me with one of those sleeve-to-eye moments that I’ll never forget.

And it came at a moment when I really needed to be moved considering what happened moments before. Watching the incredible talented singer/songwriter Neil Diamond—who is a fellow Erasmus Hall High School alum—struggle as he two-stepped while singing “Sweet Caroline” nearly led to my TV going on the disabled list.

I’m glad I resisted the urge to shatter my screen because, then, I would have missed Mariano’s moment.

Note to NBA: When you host your NBA All-Star game 30 years from now, I don’t want to see Jay-Z, Two Chains and Lil Wayne reuniting for a halftime show.