Yesterday I attended Mariano Rivera day at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx. What an honor. Andy Pettite also pitched his last home game for the Yankees. It marked the end of a truly great era of baseball in New York. From 1996 through 2002, the Yankees won 5 World Championships, 7 American League Championship Series and made the playoffs every year except 2008. The team was led by five players who demonstrated teamwork and an incredible will to win; Jorge Posada, Bernie Williams, Andy Pettite, Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera. These five demonstrated teamwork and a passion for winning that we are not likely to see for a long time in New York baseball.
This group led by example and along with Joe Torre and complimented by Paul O’Neill and David Cone created a culture of winning in New York. While talented, it was the intangibles, that separated these players from their peers. This group was at their best in the playoffs when the game and season was on the line. Mariano recorded 42 saves and posted a 0.70 ERA in the post season.
Mariano Rivera is one of the greatest baseball players of all time. He was the most dominant closer in the history of the sport. He will be voted into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. Mariano is also a great humanitarian. His contributions to improving communities in Panama where he grew up and in the United States were recognized throughout his final season. In 1998, Mariano and his wife Clara established the Mariano Rivera Foundation. The mission of the foundation is to share with the community a portion of the blessings that Mariano earned in his baseball career. The childhood challenges faced by the Rivera’s have been the inspiration for them to focus on the needs of children in similar situations.
Since 1995, Mariano has carried himself with grace, class, dignity, honesty and humility at a time when these values have been in short supply on the American sports scene. The quality that I most admire about Mariano on the field has been his ability to bounce back from some huge disappointments, make improvements and take his career to an even higher level.
I have great memories of watching Mariano Rivera pitch at old and new Yankee Stadium. I had the opportunity to watch Mo save the final game of the World Series in 1999 and 2009. I believe his greatest moment as a Yankees was the three shutout innings that he pitched in Game 7 of the 2003 American League Championship Series. For three innings, he stopped the Red Sox powerful lineup, until Aaron Boone hit his memorable walk off home run. This was the greatest baseball game that I ever saw in person. Mariano has been my favorite Yankee player during this incredible run.
Yankees fans have been fortunate and somewhat spoiled to watch Mariano Rivera for all these years. He will be missed.
In your opinion, what is Mariano Rivera’s greatest accomplishment?