COOPERSTOWN, N.Y. -- During the rehearsal on Friday for the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony on Sunday afternoon, Yankees closer Mariano Rivera raised his hand.
"Can I ask a question," Rivera quipped. "Why do I always have to go last?"
Former Oriole and Yankee Mike Mussina, who will be the first of the new inductees to speak on Sunday, had the answer.
"You know why, Mariano," he replied, "starters go first and closers go last."
The order of the speeches is not picked at random, but Rivera's place at the end of the line is not just because he is the most prolific closer in the history of the sport. It's also because he is the main event after becoming the first-ever unanimous selection by voting members of the Baseball Writers Association of America, but Mussina wasn't going to let up.
"We thought it was appropriate, that I would go first and he would go last," Mussina said during Saturday's Hall of Fame news conference, "because we're basically talking about starters, DH's and closers. That's who we have going this year. But he wanted to trade. He wanted to see if I was willing to trade with him. I said no, I'm going to go first."
Mussina wasn't through having fun with his former teammate, who was across the room regaling an even larger crowd of media. Harold Baines, Lee Smith and Edgar Martinez also had individual scrums at the Clark Sports Center.
"That's what I said," Mussina continued. "He just needed to understand that. I just think he didn't want to sit up there all that time and go sixth. That's what I think. I told him he should to do what he did during the regular season and wait until the seventh-inning stretch and then come out on stage. It would be the same.
"I also said to him that when I'm done, I'm going to leave, because that's happened when I came out of the game. I'd go inside, go in the locker room and take a shower. He said, 'That's okay as long as I don't have to come out until Bernie (Williams) plays the seventh-inning stretch."
That interplay was just a sign of the relationship that developed between Mussina and his closer over the eight years they pitched together for the Yankees. He pointed to the 123 regular-season games he won as a Yankee and the role Rivera played in securing many of them.