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updated: 8/6/2013 10:22 PM

Rivera provides quite a contrast to the circus

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  • New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera is making his final visit to U.S. Cellular Field. He has not pitched in the first two games against the White Sox.

      New York Yankees closer Mariano Rivera is making his final visit to U.S. Cellular Field. He has not pitched in the first two games against the White Sox.
    Associated Press

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Alex Rodriguez is on display at U.S. Cellular Field for one more game, so if you have a longing to see one of the most maligned athletes in professional sports, act fast.

Facing a 211-game suspension, Rodriguez's future with the Yankees -- and as a major-league player -- is unquestionably up in the air.

If you want to see one of the classiest athletes in sports, act fast as well.

New York's Mariano Rivera, far and away the best closer in major-league history, will be in uniform for the final time at the Cell on Wednesday when the Yankees and the White Sox wrap up a three-game series.

Rivera didn't pitch against the Sox Monday or Tuesday.

The 43-year-old reliever, who is baseball's all-time leader with 643 saves, is retiring at the end of the season, even though he has been dominant as usual (2-2, 1.56 ERA, 35 saves in 37 opportunities) out of New York's bullpen.

"I've been asked many, many, many times, and I wish it's the last one, but it won't be," Rivera said. "But no, no, (there's) no going back. This is it.

"Thank God for this. He has keeping me healthy and safe. I'm happy for that and I'm enjoying this season as much as I can and no, I'm not (coming) back."

Before Tuesday night's game, the Sox honored Rivera's career and presented the right-hander with a framed scorecard from his first appearance at Comiskey Park in 1995, a framed photo from his first game after 9/11 and a $4,200 check to the Jackie Robinson Foundation in Rivera's name.

Robinson's No. 42 uniform number was retired by all major-league teams in 1997, but Rivera had the number before the date and was allowed to continue wearing it.

He is the last active player in baseball wearing No. 42.

While fans at the Cell have loudly booed Rodriguez the past two games, Rivera takes the field to standing ovations no matter where the Yankees are playing.

"It has been wonderful," said Rivera, the MVP of this year's All-Star Game. "Not the farewell, but the opportunity I have to share with the fans.

"To share with those fans behind the scenes that nobody sees. Those are the ones I've been enjoying. The rest is great, but I'm enjoying what I'm doing with the fans."

Before the game, Rivera met with a select group of fans and White Sox employees to talk baseball.

The future Hall of Famer has been holding the chat sessions during his final road stop at every stadium this season, and it has made him even more popular.

"It's been special," New York manager Joe Girardi said of Rivera's farewell tour. "The excitement that visiting ballparks have when he comes into the game, and Mo really only comes in a visiting ballpark when the other club's losing, he's gotten a ton of appreciation.

"I have people yelling at me to pitch him in a game, a game that we might be losing.

"People say, 'I drove 1,000 miles to see him pitch and I want to see him pitch.' I think the clubs have done a really nice job of honoring him, and I think he has enjoyed it. I think all of us have enjoyed it as well."

And that's the exact opposite of the abuse Rodriguez has been taking as he awaits suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs.

"Alex is my friend, and it's definitely hard when you see all this stuff and when you see fans booing a player, because I'm a player," Rivera said. "It's just hard. It is what it is, but at the same time he's a human being. To see the way they boo him, it's hard to take and to see."

sgregor@dailyherald.com

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