Mariano Rivera is a five-time World Series Champion, thirteen-time all-star, and beloved and consummate professional as the closer for the New York Yankees for 17 years. And as of yesterday, July 21, 2019, Rivera is a Hall of Famer.
“Mo,” or “Sandman,” holds the record in the MLB for most career saves (652) and most games finished (952). He is widely regarded as the best closer of all time, and was a beloved teammate, playing his entire career with the New York Yankees.
Playing alongside other Yankees legends in Derek Jeter, Andy Pettite, Jorge Posada, Alex Rodriguez, and more, Mo was a part of a group that if not for their entire career, played for the Yankees for the majority of it. A tight-knit group that achieved a great amount of success, the Bronx Bombers of the late ’90s and early 2000s were anchored by the steadiest and best relief pitcher ever.
Rivera was born in Panama City, Panama, and played baseball and soccer as a kid, with soccer being his favorite sport and Pelé his favorite athlete. Living in a poor area, Rivera was forced to work year-round, six days a week, and dropped out of high school his first year.
After several nagging ankle injuries, Mo turned his attention away from soccer to baseball. In 1990, Rivera was scouted and signed a contract with the New York Yankees organization.
Mo had never left home and knew no English, but still flew to the United States and reported to a minor league affiliate of the Yankees. For five years Rivera worked his way up the minor leagues until in 1995, he was called up to the major leagues.
Mariano Rivera told some great stories during his #HOF speech. But my favorite one was when he explained how he learned English #HOF2019 #HOFWKND #Yankees #NYY #PinstripePride pic.twitter.com/7nk1cGkaNN
— 🇮🇹 ⚾️ Dominick Ruocco ⚾️ 🇮🇹 (@Dominick079) July 21, 2019
Rivera was treated as a starting pitcher until the end of his rookie season, and then after being the Yankees set up man in 1996, he was named the team’s closer in 1997.
Despite a few hiccups after his first few years in the league, Rivera is known for being a strong postseason performer, with an earned run average (ERA) of 0.70, and the most saves ever in the postseason (42).
He was named the 1999 World Series Most Valuable Player (MVP) and the 2003 AL Championship Series MVP. Mo also led the major league in saves in 1999, 2001, and 2004.
In baseball, a sport of such random occurrences, the best team does not always win. Skill, momentum, and a whole lot of luck all play a part in determining who is victorious at the end of the year.
For a team to win five World Series championships in thirteen years is absolutely unprecedented in the modern age, and it is a testament to the group the Yankees kept together.
With Jeter as the leader in the locker room, Pettite leading the charge as the ace, and Rivera there at the end of it to help calm Yankees’ fans worries, this group of Yankees will forever be remembered.
Mariano Rivera will go down as the best closer, one of the best postseason performers, and one of the most beloved Yankees of all time.