BRONX — A stretch of River Avenue near Yankee Stadium was renamed "Rivera Avenue" Monday in a ceremony to honor famed Yankee closer Mariano Rivera, who helped guide the team to five World Series championships and is Major League Baseball's all-time saves leader.
Hundreds of fans from around the city joined dignitaries at East 161st Street and River Avenue to pay tribute to the now-retired Rivera, who attended the festivities.
"You guys [fans] made this sign possible. You guys pushed," Rivera told the crowd, according to the New York Post. "I didn’t do nothing. I just tried to do my job. All the businesses on River Avenue … I mean Rivera Avenue now."
Ian Whitford, of Brooklyn, said he has been watching Rivera since he was a kid.
"It's like the ending of my childhood to see Mariano retire," he told DNAinfo.
City Councilwoman Maria Del Carmen Arroyo, who represents District 17, introduced legislation to rename the intersection, which passed on Dec. 10, 2013, by a vote of 47-0-2. Former Mayor Michael Bloomberg signed the legislation into law seven days later.
Arroyo acknowledged that it was unusual for an honor like this to happen for someone who is still alive but stressed that Rivera's accomplishments made him worthy of the distinction.
"The man is a legend," she said. "And what he represents for this community is very profound."
Rivera won several awards with the Yankees during his years on the team, including the 1999 World Series MVP, the 2013 Comeback Player of the Year Award and the 2003 ALCS MVP. He is also involved with charity through his Mariano Rivera Foundation.
Shaun Clancy of the Midtown baseball bar Foley's helped collect thousands of signatures in support of renaming River Avenue in honor of Rivera. He was particularly complimentary of the pitcher's humble nature, in spite of all his accomplishments.
"People love him, and they have no idea who he is," he said. "I know people who couldn't pick him out of a lineup, but they know what he stands for."
Bronx native Miguel Quinones was excited for future generations of Rivera's family to see the sign as well.
"His grandkids, they can come," he said, "and they'll see the legend's name up in The Bronx."