Up for some reading on this Sunday when it’s wet, foggy, and cool outside? Read on about Mariano Rivera, the Yankees’ unflappable closer who may just be the greatest closer in MLB history.
This quiet persona when it comes to being on the mound, his steel glare, and his bent-waist motion before he delivers the ball defines Rivera. But behind closed doors, he’s just this guy who works hard at everything.
Christian Red of the Daily News wrote this piece that explains Rivera’s life from the time he grew up in Puerto Caimito in Panama to the time he wanted to be a mechanic to the cutter specialist for the New York Yankees.
Rivera grew up in a strict but loving household, second of four children of a fisherman father and housewife mother. He credits the days spent on a fishing boat for shaping up his work ethic and his physical determination.
When first scouted in 1987, Rivera was noted to be an excellent fielder but said to have “a lousy bat.” The Yankees signed him and he went up in the organization and met Jeter in 1995. They became brothers.
When he wast first called up from the Columbus Clippers, Rivera jumped for joy on his hotel bed and called everyone he knew: “I’m going to the Yankees!”
One moment that could have derailed his career was the Sandy Alomar home run in 1997, but that didn’t. In fact, it made him a better pitcher.
The Bombers rebounded the following season, marching to a remarkable 114 wins and a sweep of the Padres in the World Series. They swept the Braves in the ’99 Fall Classic and won their third straight title to cap the start of the new millennium, beating the crosstown Mets in 2000. Rivera was the last Yankee pitcher on the mound in each of those three title-clinching games. His cutter was his established weapon throughout that title run, and has remained his signature pitch.
Even current Yankee Mark Teixeira is blessed he’s on the same team because of how lethal Rivera is. Tex is a lifetime .111 hitter against Mo. Jeter says that “most players are defeated before they even step up to the plate.”
Like fine wine, Rivera has only gotten better with age. He had 44 saves last year with a 1.76 ERA.
Red sums up his article the best:
The Yankee spoils, the World Series rings, the 526 career saves (and counting), the accolades – Rivera appreciates them all, yet holds them with equal importance to the days of cardboard mitts and barefoot base-running. He tries to return to his Puerto Caimito home each Christmas, to present gifts and money for the less fortunate families there.
“What I have, and what I have accomplished – thank God. Thank God,” says Rivera, who is reluctant to talk about his generosity. “But that won’t change me, won’t make me better than you, smarter than you. No. Because I have a little bit more, that means I’m better than you? No. Unacceptable.
“That’s the way I am.”