One last play in the field, that was all Alex Rodriguez wanted and with a 6-3 lead in Friday's ninth inning of his last game in pinstripes, Yankees manager Joe Girardi was able to make it happen.
"We want A-Rod! We want A-Rod!" the sold-out Yankee Stadium crowd of over 46,000 pleaded at the end of the eighth and out from the dugout Rodriguez emerged, trotting toward third base and the ball park shook with their standing ovation.
Rodriguez, 41, had thrilled fans with his talents for 22 seasons, the last 13 in New York including a World Series title, and sickened others with his doping offenses, the last one wiping out his entire 2014 campaign.
Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner told A-Rod last week that he would be released after this game against the Tampa Bay Rays, with the club swallowing his $20 million salary for next year as they worked earnestly to shift to younger players.
"I'm going to savor every moment, every at-bat," three-time American League MVP and 14-time All-Star Rodriguez told reporters before the game.
A-Rod certainly enjoyed his first trip to the plate.
Given a standing ovation and the familiar chant of "A-Rod", he lined a run-scoring double up the gap in right-center off starter Chris Archer to score Brett Gardner from first to tie the game at 1-1 in the opening frame.
That was his only hit, but home runs by Starlin Castro and Aaron Hicks padded New York's lead to 6-3 and Girardi was comfortable giving A-Rod a last moment to cherish.
Rodriguez had been made a full-time designated hitter last year and this year as he struggled to make contact at the plate, was getting less and less play time, batting a woeful .199.
"I'm very grateful that Joe gave me the opportunity to play third. I hadn't touched my glove for a long time," said A-Rod, who stands fourth on the all-time home run list behind Babe Ruth, Henry Aaron and Barry Bonds.
"I haven't played a lot of baseball lately."
Alex Rodriguez through the years
Alex Rodriguez through the years
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 07: Alex Rodriguez speaks during a news conference on August 7, 2016 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. Rodriguez announced that he will play his final major league game on Friday, August 12 and then assume a position with the Yankees as a special advisor and instructor. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
1994: Alex Rodriguez of the Seattle Marinbers poses for a 1994 season portrait. Alex Rodriguez played for the Seattle Mariners from 1994-2000. (Photo by Rich Pilling/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
CHICAGO, IL - JUNE 21: Seattle Mariners shortstop Alex Rodriguez (L) waits for the late throw as Chicago White Sox runner Lance Johnson (R) dives for second base to avoid a double play in the first inning 21 June at Comiskey Park in Chicago. Sox batter Tim Raines was tagged out at first base on the play. AFP PHOTO (Photo credit should read BRIAN BAHR/AFP/Getty Images)
16 Jul 1996: Short stop Alex Rodriguez of the Seattle Mariners talks to a teammate in the dugout following an at-bat in the Mariners 12-5 loss to the Oakland A's at Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California. Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule/Allsport
USA - OCTOBER 23: Alex Rodriguez of the Seattle Mariners poses for a photo on October 23, 1996. (Photo by Sporting News via Getty Images)
6 Mar 1998: Infielder Alex Rodriguez of the Seattle Mariners in action during a spring training game against the Milwaukee Brewers at the Maryvale Sports Complex in Maryvale, Arizona. The Mariners defeated the Brewers 18-3. Mandatory Credit: Jed Jacobsoh
BALTIMORE, MD - JULY 1: Alex Rodriguez #3 of the Seattle Mariners looks on during a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles on July 1, 1998 at Camden Yards in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, : Alex Rodriguez of the Seattle Mariners slides safely across home plate to break a 2-2 tie in the sixth inning of play with the Texas Rangers 02 July 1999, at the Ballpark in Arlington, Texas. Texas went on to win the game 7-6. AFP PHOTO/PAUL BUCK (Photo credit should read PAUL BUCK/AFP/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JULY 11: Nomar Garciaparra #5 of the Boston Red Sox, Alex Rodriguez #3 of the Seattle Mariners and Derek Jeter #2 of the New York Yankees pose for a photo before the 71st MLB All-Star Game at Turner Field on Tuesday, July 11, 2000 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Rich Pilling/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, UNITED STATES: Seattle Mariner Alex Rodriguez hugs a teammate in the locker room after their 5-2 victory over the Anaheim Angels, and their clinchin of the AL Wildcard playoff birth 01 October 2000 at Edison Field in Anaheim, CA. AFP Photo Scott Nelson (Photo credit should read Scott Nelson/AFP/Getty Images)
12 Dec 2000: Alex Rodriguez talks during a press conference after being signed to the Texas Rangers at The Ball Park in Arlington, Texas.Mandatory Credit: Gary Barber /Allsport
13 May 2001: Alex Rodriguez #3 of the Texas Rangers swings at the ball during the game against the Chicago White Sox at Comiskey Park in Chicago, Illinois. The White Sox defeated the Rangers 6-3.Mandatory Credit: Jonathan Daniel /Allsport
ARLINGTON, UNITED STATES: Texas Rangers' shortstop Alex Rodriguez (L) tags out Jermaine Dye of the Kansas City Royals (R) in a rundown in early action at the Ballpark in Arlington, Texas, 31 May 2001. The Royals beat the Rangers 8-2. AFP PHOTO/Paul BUCK (Photo credit should read PAUL BUCK/AFP/Getty Images)
26 Sep 2001: Shortstop Alex Rodriguez #3 of the Texas Rangers watches his two-run homer leave the yard against the Seattle Mariners at The Ballpark in Arlington, Texas. Rodriguez set a recod for most home runs in a season by a shortstop with his 49th, which also leads the American League. DIGITAL IMAGE Mandatory Credit: Ronald Martinez/ALLSPORT
NEW YORK, UNITED STATES: Alex Rodriguez (R) tries on his new New York Yankees cap given to him by Yankees Manager Joe Torre during a press conference at Yankee Stadium in New York 17 February, 2004 to formally announce him to the team. Rodriguez, a shortstop who likely will move to third base, was traded to the Yankees from the Texas Rangers in exchange for Alfonso Soriano and a player to be named later. Rodriguez has a guaranteed contract for 189 million USD over the next seven years. AFP PHOTO /Timothy A. Clary (Photo credit should read TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)
BRONX, NY - APRIL 8: Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees points to the crowd during batting practice before the Yankees home opener against the Chicago White Sox on April 8, 2004 at the Yankees Stadium in the Bronx, New York. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
BOSTON - JULY 24: Alex Rodriguez of the Yankees and Red Sox catcher Jason Varitek trade blows in the 3rd inning that precipitated a bench clearing brawl between the two teams. Both players were ejected from the game. (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
NEW YORK CITY - OCTOBER 19: Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees heads into first base as Boston Red Sox pitcher Bronson Arroyo tries to tag him, during the eighth inning of the American League Championship Series at Yankee Stadium. Umpires ruled that Rodriguez was out because he batted the ball away from Arroyo. Doug Mienkiewicz of the Sox is at right. (Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez, center, reacts after he was called out for interferring the Boston Red Sox defense in Game Six of the American League Championship Series, Tuesday, October 19, 2004 in Bronx, New York. The Red Sox won 4-2. (Photo by Jim Rogash/WireImage)
BRONX, NY - APRIL 5: Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees runs to catch a pop up against the Boston Red Sox during the game at Yankee Stadium on April 5, 2005 in Bronx, New York. The Yankees won 4-3. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
ANAHEIM, CA - MARCH 12: Alex Rodriguez #13 of Team USA celebrates with teammates after his game winning single against Team Japan during the Round 2 Pool 2 Game of the World Baseball Classic at Angel Stadium on March 12, 2006 in Anaheim, California. USA defeated Japan 4-3. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - MAY 7: Third baseman Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees fields a ground ball during the game against the Texas Rangers at Ameriquest Field in Arlington on May 7, 2006 in Arlington, Texas. The Yankees defeated the Rangers 8-5. (Photo by John Williamson /MLB Photos via Getty Images)
(EXCLUSIVE, Premium Rates Apply) Alex Rodriguez (Photo by Johnny Nunez/WireImage)
UNITED STATES - APRIL 19: New York Yankees' Alex Rodriguez throws up his arms in celebration after hitting a three-run, walk-off homer to center in the bottom of the ninth inning to lift the Yanks to an 8-6 win over the Cleveland Indians at Yankee Stadium. The Yanks mounted a six-run comeback, capped by A-Rod's game-winner, with two outs in the ninth for the win. (Photo by Howard Earl Simmons/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - JUNE 21: Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees accepts the 2007 Babe Ruth Home Run Award from Julia Ruth Stevens, daughter of Babe Ruth, prior to the game against the Cincinnati Reds on June 21, 2008 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
BRONX, NY - MAY 22: Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees fields the ball against the Baltimore Orioles during their game on May 22, 2008 at Yankee Stadium in The Bronx Borough of New York (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 19: Photo day at New York Yankees Spring Training., 3rd baseman Alex Rodriguez, (Photo by Ron Antonelli/NY Daily News Archive via Getty Images)
NEW YORK - MAY 16: Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees bats against the Minnesota Twins on May 16, 2009 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees defeated the Twins 6-4 in 11 innings. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Sportschrome/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 04: Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees celebrates after their 7-3 win against the Philadelphia Phillies in Game Six of the 2009 MLB World Series at Yankee Stadium on November 4, 2009 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 04: Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees holds up the World Series trophy after defeating the Philadelphia Phillies during Game Six of the 2009 MLB World Series at Yankee Stadium on November 4, 2009 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Rob Tringali/Sportschrome/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - APRIL 13: Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees shows off his World Series ring to the media during a press conference after the Yankees home opener at Yankee Stadium on April 13, 2010 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
NEW YORK - AUGUST 04: Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees runs the bases after hitting his 600th career home run in the first inning against Shaun Marcum #28 (not pictured) of the Toronto Blue Jays on August 4, 2010 at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
BALTIMORE, MD - APRIL 23: Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees looks on from the dugout prior to the start of the Yankees and Baltimore Orioles game at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on April 23, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, TX - APRIL 23: Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington on April 23, 2012 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 18: Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees laughs during batting practice against the Detroit Tigers during game four of the American League Championship Series at Comerica Park on October 18, 2012 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - AUGUST 11: Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees in action against the Detroit Tigers at Yankee Stadium on August 11, 2013 in the Bronx borough of New York City. The Yankees defeated the Tigers 5-4. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 02: American baseball star Alex Rodriguez is seen outside MLB Offices on October 2, 2013 in New York City. (Photo by Raymond Hall/FilmMagic)
TUSCALOOSA, AL - OCTOBER 18: Alex Rodriguez of the New York Yankees stands on the field prior to the game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Texas A&M Aggies at Bryant-Denny Stadium on October 18, 2014 in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
TAMPA, FL - MARCH 4: Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees laughs Yankees special advisor Lee Mazzilli as he waits in the dugout before the start of a spring training game against the Philadelphia Phillies on March 4, 2015 at Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Brian Blanco/Getty Images)
Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees, prepares to pinch hit during the New York Mets Vs New York Yankees MLB regular season baseball game at Citi Field, Queens, New York. USA. 18th September 2015. Photo Tim Clayton (Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images)
BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 09: Alex Rodriguez #13 of the New York Yankees enters the dugout before the game against the Boston Red Sox at Fenway Park on August 9, 2016 in Boston, Massachusetts. (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Reliever Dellin Betances took the pressure off Rodriguez by striking out Mikie Mahtook leading off the ninth and the ball park exploded again when Ronald Torreyes was sent to replace A-Rod, who received one more thunderous curtain call and a round of hugs from team mates who left the dugout to greet him.
"If this is the last time he plays, I wanted it to be something that would never be forgotten for him," Girardi said, sobbing with emotion.
"After the game I went up to him, shook his hand and gave him a big hug," Rodriguez said about the manager. "I'm forever grateful. That was a big moment."
Betances struck out the next two Rays batters to end the game, and A-Rod came out and collected some dirt from the third base area and put it in a baggie for a keepsake.
"I just wanted a little bit of a memory," said A-Rod.
Before the game, with the field covered by a tarpaulin for a threatened thunderstorm, the Yankees staged a modest tribute to Rodriguez with a video salute to him on the huge centerfield screen with family and friends joining him near home plate.
As he was being presented a base signed by team mates and a framed No. 13 Yankees uniform by owner Steinbrenner, a thunderclap boomed and a lightning bolt lit the Bronx sky.
"The ceremony, it was certainly like biblical," said A-Rod. "To hear the thunder crackle... You can't make this up. I guess we went out with a bang."